Students’ Suicide Sparked Call for Education Reforms in the Philippines

The body of Kristel Tejada was laid to rest at the Manila cemetery last week.

Earlier this month, the 16-year-old student killed herself after she was unable to pay her tuition fees.  

Her death has sparked outrage over the no late payment policy at state universities.

Madonna Virola has more from Manila.

Francesco de Guzman is a close friend of Kristen Tejada. They both took Behavioural Science at the University of Philippines.

“She was always happy, seldom are the moments we’d see her being stressed out by anything.  One of her mottos is to always look on the bright side of life and to never give up. We’re really shocked and surprised that she did that act.”

Kristel took her own life on March 15 by drinking silver cleaner.

It happened just two days after she was forced to file a leave of absence from school due to her failure to pay university fees.

Professor Andrea Martinez is Kristel’s program adviser.

She said they talked about possible solutions to finance her schooling like a scholarship or summer jobs.

”Kristel didn’t want to hurt her parents.  She also talks about her plans.  She wants to be a military doctor.  She wanted to give a good future to her siblings.  She wanted her parents to be proud of her.”

Kristel’s case has put the national spotlight on the state university’s no late payment policy.

Mariz Zubiri, the chair of the Student Council says this is a wake up call for education reforms.

”We expect a dialogue with the Department of Budget and Management and if President Aquino would allow, a dialogue with him also because this issue is not really confined in the University of the Philippines.  This issue is rampant, not only in state universities and colleges but also in private institutions.  There is news circulating in the internet that around 50 universities will have tuition hikes in coming year. Education is something that should be provided by the government.”

A few days after the suicide, the University of Philippines changed its tuition policy.

And they pledged financial assistance to Tejada’s family.

Kristel’s father, Christopher Tejada used to work as a taxi driver.

”Nobody liked what happened. We tried everything we could for her not to lose her education.  Her life revolved around her studies which she hoped would give us a better life.”

After his daughters death he has been given a job in the Mayor’s office.

Kristel’s mother housewife Blesida Tejada shows me a beautiful photo of her daughter.

”I did not realize how big the problem was for her. I thought I knew her that well. I hope her death will be beneficial to many.”

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