Tragedy, unpaid tuition fee, education as a right, SUC administration, economics, politics, behavioral science, suicide, rage, empathy: these are among the many other elements that complicate the issue of the sudden death of UP Manila freshie, Kristel Tejada, who took away her life by drinking a silver cleaning liquid in their residence a few days ago.

With the unfolding of the events, linear thinking could point to the issue of the school’s policy as repressive to force the 16 year old student to take her own life. Reports inform that she committed suicide two days right after she filed her leave of absence for the next semester. Her application was approved the next day, March 14. She died by poisoning herself before dawn of March 15.

Indeed the event is tragic, any sudden death is; more so, when death is by committing suicide. Life’s woes are battled with one’s strength. The lost of that strength to overcome mishaps in one’s life leads to depression and severe anxiety, when such emotional overtures are not managed, the worst happens. The option to commit suicide to escape life’s imminent dangers is a tragedy itself. Suicide as a phenomenon does not exclude young people.

Kristel’s is a case of teenage suicide, the context is not limited to that of not being able to pay her tuition fees, although it could be a stress factor.  Suicide is a voluntary act of taking one’s own life. With that there is no one to be blamed, yet there are precedents to the situation that Behavioral Science understands as stimuli to an action. The school’s policy could just be among the many other stressors that pressed Kristel into committing sucide.

Her act of getting in the system should have come with her comprehension that the system could be harsh, while at the same time she should have allowed herself to see the many options of surviving college. Young as she is, her family and those who are concerned of her situation should have felt her need and so they should have supported her all along. Intelligence is not a matter of results of paper and pencil test. Emotional intelligence goes with that.

Studying in UP is already stressful and the mindset of every one entering the university should be open to that concept. Like entering a school or choosing a course, suicide is a decision that begins with an ideation. There are many manifestations of this ideation, and it does not come just as surprising. If her family and friends have been sensitive enough and mindful of her concerns then this could have been prevented.

The system could be perceived harsh and unjust. So politically, radical views would tell of Kristel’s death as a result of such repression of the right to education. Education is considered as a right as stipulated in the constitution. This premise drives many to blame the educational system for Kristel’s death. This political view should also consider the economic side of providing free education. While it is a right guaranteed in the statutory law, it is not guaranteed to be free for everyone.

There is a need for finances to sustain quality education. What is free is not often quality. The state colleges and universities are established by Law to provide education to the youth, with some assistance from the government, national or local. But, with the increasing need and cost of operation, the need for tuition fees in SUCs arises. With UP, it is a chartered university and that the President of this country has no direct mandate of its policy, neither the Commission on Higher Education.

Kristel’s case has become a political platform. Those politicians who are supposed to represent a progressive view rant of the systemic corruption and the government’s neglect of SUCs and failure to provide free education. Are they not involved in the national budget debates? How much do they shell out from their pork barrel to fund Philippine schools? If education is indeed their priority, then they should keep out of the case as their hands are clean.

Kristel died by suicide, and the context of her death is circumscribed in the system of Philippine education, which consequently rages a number of people to call for a system’s change. Empathy is indeed needed at this moment for those bereaved, yet still the darkness of a suicide falls back on human weakness and the frailty of the system which should humanely sustain a community.

The way Kristel’s death is lamented seems to vilify the system and turns her to be the protagonist in the tragedy of her life story. This sends a wrong message which seems to justify the lost of one’s value for life, strength and virtue to overcome life’s woes. A scholar’s way of thinking is deeper than the roots of a problem, wider than their thresholds of pain, and more significant than the self’s interests of immediate relief. Suicide though prompted by the wrong system is still self-serving, yet in the light of the events, Kristel’s death should remind how the wrong system could kill a scholar.


My deepest sympathy to the UP community and Kristel’s family.

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