Sunday, October 07, 2007

Student leaders, educators want youth council scraped

By Rommel C. Lontayao, Manila Times Reporter

Student leaders, educators want youth council scraped
First of two parts

Student leaders from various schools nationwide and supervisors from the Department of Education (DepEd) have recently called for the abolition of the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK).

The no longer meets its purpose and that the re-allocation of its funds will help augment the budget of the public school system, they said.

In a proposal drafted during a national leadership training attended by some 6,000 students and educators from all over the country, representatives from the Federation of Supreme Student Governments and regional education supervisors in Social Studies urged Congress to pass a law abolishing the SK.

SK inefficient

In a statement, student and teacher groups said, “The SK, whose primary objective is to enhance the social, political, economic, cultural, intellectual, moral, spiritual and physical development of the youth of the country, has lost the bases of its existence with its miserable performance or nonperformance.”

They added that programs and projects being implemented by the SK, consisting mostly of construction of waiting sheds and signposts bearing the names of SK officials, are too insignificant and irrelevant.

These programs and projects are wasting precious resources that could have funded more important and urgent concerns such as public education, they said.

Give funds to education

The proponents calling for the abolition of the SK drafted a manifesto, which says “funds intended for the SK, if and when re-allocated for public education, will certainly help solve its problems.”

The public education system “needs all the resources to address prevailing gaps in education-related resources such as quality books, fully-equipped classrooms and competent teachers,” according to the manifesto.

DepEd has estimated that, by the end of school year 2008, there would be a shortage of 1,390 classrooms, 524,237 school seats, 2,733 teachers and 44.2 million textbooks.

This would not be resolved if the government continue to allocate insufficient funds for public education, according to DepEd sources.

The education department estimated that some P4.3 billion is still needed to cover the shortage. DepEd has an allocated budget of P137 billion this year.

According to IBON Foundation, the government now spends more for debt service of interest payments alone per Filipino than it does for education.

In the proposed 2008 budget, the Philippine government allocated P3,269.48 per capita for interest payments, while it allocated only P2,010.39 per capita for education.

The research group also said government support for the public educational system has been declining in the past years and this is manifested by the severe shortages besetting the sector.

The 2006 budget of the DepEd has fallen by almost 6 percent from budget allocations five years ago. This means that, based on school year 2005-2006 enrollment figures, each public school student is allocated a share of only P5,082 of the DepEd budget, down 11 percent from P5,726 in 2001.

Declining allocations for education are reflected in the severe shortages of teachers and teaching materials that have crippled the public education system, which, according to the law, should receive the highest share of the national government budget.

Several weeks ago, the Commission on Elections said it had already received P664 million as initial fund for the conduct of the synchronized barangay and SK polls.

“Since 1992, billions of pesos coming from scarce government resources have been spent to cover for the elections of SKs in practically all barangays in the Philippines, whether urban or rural,” Antonio Morales, a columnist of an online local media organization, said.

“SK officials receive remuneration for attending SK sessions from barangay funds. SK receives a 10-percent apportionment from the barangay budget. With that, they spend their share for their pet projects that are not necessary, not beneficial to the youth, and simply a drain to the coffers of the government,” Morales in an article posted in samarnews.com.

In previous reports, President Gloria Arroyo was quoted as saying that the 10-percent share of the SK could be used by the barangay council for building farm-to-market road instead

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