There are many things that one can associate with coffee. It may be the aroma that make people just want to get another cup. It may be the establishments like Starbucks or Seattle’s that serve them. It may even be the ability of coffee to keep people awake. One can also associate the conversations and discussions that people have over coffee. This is the concept behind Kapekonomiya. It is a series of talks, forums, or debates regarding pressing national and economics issues. The event is, of course, so titled because free coffee is served for all participants, speakers, and moderators.
This academic year’s first installment of Kapekonomiya (Friday, July 12, 2013) entitled “Surveying the Financial Affairs Policy of the University of the Philippines” was about the controversial STFAP (Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program) scheme of the university. The event, organized by UP SESC and UP ETC, was an educational discussion slash debate between those who were in favor of completely scrapping the STFAP and those who were in favor of reforming it.
In gist, the Scrap STFAP side focused on the concept that education was a right, and therefore should be provided free by the government. On the other hand, the Reform STFAP side stressed that free education was impossible and that the STFAP was needed because of the unequal access to education.
The STFAP has been around since 1989, but still, up to now, criticisms haven’t stopped. This may explain why the event was attended by more than 300 students. They were all eager to listen to the different sides of an issue that will affect them as long as they study in UP, or even after.
I’m writing this blog not because I want to share my own opinions regarding the STFAP, but I simply just want to stress on the effects this issue has had on the students of the university and how they have been responding to it. The effects of the issue are mixed. For some, the STFAP issue is a matter of whether or not they can continue their education in UP. For others, it is a matter of just paying a little bit more. Due to mixed effects, the responses are, of course, also mixed. As the forum mentioned above suggests, some would openly oppose the scheme and call for its complete scrap. Others, on the other hand, simply just call for its reform. Students would also have different ways to express these responses.
One thing is for sure though: students will continue to voice out what they think and how they feel about this particular issue. It is a part of the culture of being a student of UP to be involved and to be critical regarding issues such as this. As Roi Pablo, the Project Head of Kapekonomiya, said in his concluding remarks for the event: “May we always remember that our calls to whether Scrap, Retain, or Reform STFAP are not the end but merely the means to an end. An end that we hope will be the best for all students. Let us continue to be CRITICAL and ASSERTIVE”. I couldn’t have said that better myself. That is tatak UP. That is what it means to be an Iskolar ng Bayan.
Now, that’s something to remember the next time you grab a cup of coffee.