Dubbed as "DAYALOGO", the event which was held in Ateneo de Manila University, was described by student groups as a "student-initiated, student-led inter-agency dialogue" with concerned government agencies to discuss pertinent issues surrounding the education sector.
"Genuine and additional avenue" to present student issues
According to Akbayan Youth Spokesperson JC Tejano, the students convened the dialogue in order to create a "genuine and additional avenue" for pressing student issues to be addressed.
"Pinatawag ng mga estudyante itong dialogue para bigyang tugon ang mga isyung kinahaharap namin. Sa palagay namin, hindi dahil nagpoprotesta kami tungkol sa mga isyung ng edukasyon ay walang puwang para magkaroon ng masinsinang paguusap. Bukas kami sa ibang mga paraan para solusyonan ang mga problema ng mga estudyante," according to Tejano.
"Gusto rin namin maging institutionalized ang dialogue na ito. Hopefully, we can hold these dialogues every semester to ensure that there is a mechanism wherein we can constantly improve the programs and policies targeting the student sector," Tejano said.
Tuition increases, "tyranny of false consensus"
Among the list of issues tackled by the dialogue include tuition and other school fee increases and reports of dubious consultations with students conducted by some colleges and universities.
"The rising cost of education has always been a burden to students, many of whom come from families struggling to make ends meet. We urge CHED to immediately act on this concern by carefully scrutinizing these tuition increases if they followed all the necessary requirements ascertained by law or if they are even fair and reasonable in the first place,' according to Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP) Chairperson Heart Diņo.
Diņo also pointed to what they claim as the "tyranny of false consensus" concerning dubious if not flawed consultation processes on tuition and other school fee increases.
"We have received numerous reports of irregular consultations with the students by some schools on tuition and other fee increases. We challenge the CHED to seriously look into these allegations. The students and their parents are sick and tired of being tyrannized by flawed processes just to jack up school tuition," Diņo added.
Students' safety and security
The student groups also raised students' safety concerns with the PNP especially with the opening of classes.
"Dapat nga kapag unang araw o balik-eskwela masaya yung karanasan at hindi nag-aalala yung mga estudyante na baka maging biktima sila ng krimen," according to Polytechnic University of the Philippines - College of Communication Student Council President Cedric Martinez.
"Natutuwa kami na may ginagawa rin yung PNP para protektahan yung mga estudyante ngayong pagbukas ng eskwelahan. Sana itong dayalogo ay makatulong para magkaroon ng higit na pagtutulungan para maaksyunan ang mga insidente ng krimen," Martinez added.
Maximum tolerance on student protests
Martinez also expressed hope that the police authorities will likewise exert maximum tolerance during student-led protests.
"Hinahamon namin ang mga pulis natin na tiyaking walang karahasang mangyayari sa tuwing nagsasagawa kami ng demonstrasyon at protesta. Ipinapahayag lang naman namin ang aming mga saloobin tungkol sa mga isyu ng bayan. Ayaw naman naming may nasasaktan," Martinez said.
Discriminatory policies against openly gay, pregnant, and student activists
The student groups also urged closer coordination between the CHR and the NYC in addressing various reports of discriminatory practices being implemented by some schools such as prohibiting pregnant and openly gay students from enrolling as well as requiring students to promise not to engage in activism.
"It is troubling that there are still some schools with policies which are blatantly violating the students' rights. The CHR, together with the NYC, must immediately act on them and put an end to such practices," Diņo said.
Tejano said he looked forward to creating stronger coordination between the students and the government agencies to monitor future incidents of abuses.
"Hopefully this dialogue can lead to an efficient way of addressing students concerns. We feel this is an important step in expanding the strategies and forums that students can use to safeguard their rights and advance their welfare," Tejano added.
DAYALAGO was spearheaded by Akbayan Youth together with SCAP and student council groups from various colleges and universities such as the PUP - College of Communication, University of the Philippines - Diliman, De La Salle University, Ateneo de Manila University, University of the Philippines - Manila, and San Beda College.
The youth and student groups are hopeful that the dialogue can be institutionalized and convened every semester.
Akbayan Youth, a democratic socialist youth & student movement, works for the realization of good governance and transformative politics. Through dynamic, critical, vigilant, and solution-oriented brand of progressive activism, we aim to contribute in catalyzing social change.