May 22-23, 2008. The NC (National Council) Meet of KASAMA sa UP (Katipunan ng mga Sangguniang Mag-aaral sa UP) was held from May 22-23, 2008 at a training center in Pit-os, a mountainous and less urban area of Cebu City. KASAMA sa UP is the broadest alliance of student councils in the University of the Philippine system, with member college student councils and university student councils from UP Baguio, UP Pampanga, UP Diliman, UP Manila, UP Losa Baños, UP Visayas and UP Mindanao.
The delegates first converged at the UP Cebu College campus morning of May 22 before proceeding to Pit-os on hired jeepneys. Since I wasn’t previously aware of the program, I was surprised that the venue wasn’t at UP Cebu itself. Instead the NC meet, as I’ve mentioned, was held at a training center in Cebu City’s Pit-os area, which was more or less half an hour from the city center.
What happened after we arrived were team-building activities, unit reports, idle moments with co-delegates and a plenary session. Of course, we had breakfast, lunch and dinner in a collective mess hall in between sessions. Washing the dishes was assigned and tasked on various UP units per meal. We all slept on rattan double-deck beds at night.
Anyway, what is always apparent in unit reports and plenary sessions with other UP student leaders is that the problems of students in the various UP units from the introduction and the hikes in laboratory fees to differences with school administrations with regards to student policies, don’t exist in a vacuum. They are in fact, very similar to each other and can be analyzed as part of a grander scheme of education policies perpetuated by school administrators and government policy-makers. As such, campaigns to resolve such problems should be designed with the broadest support of students from Baguio to Mindanao. The way I see it, it is the tendency of school officials to isolate, say, proposals to hike laboratory fees, from laboratory fee hikes in other departments and colleges–to weaken any opposition to such proposals–when in fact they’re all based on the same reasons and on the same higher education policies, and should be engaged by students collectively.
Student Regent Shahana Abdulwahid made a notable point when she discussed laboratoy fee hikes. She said that unlike tuition hikes where would-be freshmen are at least presented with the option of socialized tuition and the option of not enrolling at all, laboratoy fee hikes give present students no choice but to pay for such hikes if they wish to continue schooling and not let years of undergraduate studying go to waste. Such makes lab fee hikes worse than tuition hikes.
Anyway, the NC Meet was capped off with a solidarity night with impromptu performances from the various UP units present. It was nice getting to know student council members from other UP units. KASAMA sa UP meets are opportunities for student councils to consolidate their ranks in order to colelctively protect and fight for students’ rights. Everyone eventually returned to Cebu City Friday night. Because my flight was at 5 in the morning the next day, I wasn’t able to join everyone else in a late night-out. I proceeded to sleep for a few hours at Mom Inday’s place near Fuente Osmena before proceeding to the airport.