By Rjay Zuriaga Castor
A total of 2,000 students from West Visayas State University received cash assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development under its Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS) program.
Senator Imee Marcos, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare, and Rural Development, led the distribution of cash assistance with an over-the-counter payout of P5,000 each to students on Friday afternoon.
There are 1,000 beneficiaries from the WVSU-Main Campus and the remaining from its five external campuses in Himamaylan, Calinog, Pototan, Janiuay, and Lambunao.
“We always say that education in the Philippines is free. It’s free in elementary, high school, and college in state universities and colleges. But the reality is, education remains expensive, especially for more unfortunate families,” said Marcos.
She emphasized that the burden doubles with the rising cost of basic goods and services on students who also need to meet educational requirements.
“Talagang mahal pa rin pumasok. Kaya yung ating mga mas mahihirap na mga estudyante talagang mabigat sa kanilang pamilya,” she said.
The senator hopes that the cash assistance will alleviate the students’ financial difficulties,
“I am hopeful that the P5,000 will go towards helping each one of you complete all those requirements, help you perform better, and focus to strive and study hard to finish as soon as you can,” she added.
Marcos highlighted that WVSU was selected among all other state universities and colleges in the region due to the large number of students from marginalized sectors like farmers and fisherfolk in the external campuses.
“Malaki nga pero yung mga nasa extension campus, maraming fisherfolk, maraming marginal farmers. Maraming tinutukan na kahit maganda yung eskwelahang, hirap pa rin yung estudyante,” she explained.
The senator also noted that her family has a special affinity for WVSU, being one of the very last colleges in the country converted into a university.
WVSU was converted into a university through Presidential Decree No. 2019 on January 27, 1986, during the height of the EDSA People Power Revolution, which led to the ouster of the senator’s late-dictator father.
“We have a special affinity in this university because this is one of the very last state universities that my father established in late-January of 1986. Nagkakagulo na ang mundo nun pero pinilit pa rin niya na matapos at mabuo yung WVSU,” the senator said.
Marcos mentioned that several universities in the region have expressed interest, suggesting their students may also be considered beneficiaries of the AICS program. The senator, however, did not disclose their names.
The senator also expressed that her office will extend help to WVSU on the construction of more classrooms and facilities since it can no longer accommodate the increasing number of enrollees.
Due to the lack of physical classrooms, WVSU is currently adopting a blended or “hybrid” learning approach for undergraduate programs without licensure examinations and graduate school programs for the first semester of the academic year 2023-2024.
“It’s been a struggle post-COVID. We all know that we have to address the learning deficit as well as the classroom deficit. It’s a work in progress, we have to join forces to address this,” she said.
Marcos pointed out the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, pointing out the delay in infrastructure budgets for educational institutions.
“Nang tinamaan tayo ng COVID, lahat ng pambayad natin at panggastos sa infrastructure, napunta sa pambili ng bakuna […] We are still playing catch-up on the infrastructure of 2021. We are three to four years behind and as a result, we are paying the price today,” she explained.