Cash-strapped coed’s suicide stirs UPBy Dona Z. Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The University of the Philippines Manila (UPM) was put on the spot on Friday following reports that a freshman took her own life two days after she was forced to put her studies on hold because she could not pay the tuition.
Kristel Pilar Mariz Tejada, a 16-year-old Behavioral Sciences student, was found dead in her house in Tayuman, Manila, before dawn Friday. She reportedly drank a silver cleaning solution.
According to UP Manila’s student publication, Manila Collegian, Tejada was forced on Wednesday to file a leave of absence for the second semester of school year 2012-2013, despite her and her parents’ appeals to extend the payment period for her tuition loan.
Her desperation over her financial problem which forced her to defer her studies was believed to have triggered the suicide, according to the publication.
Tejada was the eldest of five children. Her father is a taxi driver while her mother is a housewife.
In a statement issued late Friday, the UPM administration expressed its condolences to the Tejadas and explained the circumstances of her financial troubles with the university.
“UPM officials said this was a very unfortunate incident and appealed to the public to wait for the full investigation of the case by the authorities,” according to the statement released through the university’s Information, Publication and Public Affairs Office (IPPAO).
In an interview, IPPAO director Anthony Leachon disclosed that Tejada was supposed to be entitled to an P8,000 tuition grant based on funds that UP had received from the Office of the Vice President.
However, Tejada was not able to comply with the paperwork and other requirements to avail herself of the grant, Leachon said.
He also denied that Tejada was forced to take a leave of absence, while explaining that a student would have been declared Awol (absent without leave) if she was not properly enrolled.
Since 1989, the country’s premier state university has been implementing a socialized tuition scheme wherein well-to-do students pay higher tuition while those from low-income families are supposed to pay minimal or no tuition.
Students are categorized according to their capacity to pay under five brackets, with Bracket A paying P1,500 per unit while those in Bracket E pay no tuition. Tejada was categorized under Bracket D wherein she had to pay P300 per unit, according to Leachon.
“Based on information gathered from her teachers and the Office of Student Affairs, Ms Tejada was having deeply rooted family and financial problems,” UPM said in its statement.
Leachon said Tejada applied for a student loan of P6,337 during the first semester. She was given extension to pay the loan on Nov. 30, 2012, which was further moved to December 2012.
In late January this year, Christopher Tejada, Kristel’s father, made a request for his daughter to be enrolled and allowed to apply for another loan. “Since it was already midsemester, the request for enrollment was not granted,” UPM said.
“According to (UPM) Chancellor (Manuel) Agulto, the P8,000 (grant) from the funding from Vice President Binay was there since last semester. But because of her inability to comply with requirements, she was not able to enroll.” Leachon said.
“Students respond differently to pressure. It’s a confluence of different factors. Given all the conditions, what is most needed is moral support for the family,” he said.
UPM said one of Tejada’s professors, Andrea Martinez of the UPM Department of Behavioral Sciences, had gone to the funeral parlor to assist the Tejadas, while Office of Student Affairs director Honey Libertine Achanzar-Labor had also met with the family to extend UPM’s condolences.
Leachon said UP Manila would also give financial assistance to the family. With a report from Nancy C. Carvajal