We all know the news about the suicide of a UPM freshie, Kristel, because of her forced leave of absence. While the majority have condoled and expressed anger over an increasingly elitist education system, there are those who have focused on the victim’s individual weaknesses, claiming that generations of poor students before her were able to get on by.
In everything there are always internal and external factors. Obviously the externality of a harsh, elitist education system and policy is a significant driver. But before we judge Kristel to be made of weaker stuff, we should know her socio-historical context first.
She was the eldest of her siblings and the only one in her family able to make it to college. As early as 2001, her family’s signs of desperate poverty are already apparent: her mother wrote to the Phil Star tabloid asking for any opportunity to make Kristel a child star.
It turns out, she was a performing student through her elementary and high school days despite their poverty: . That is saying something of her quality that does not smack of ‘weakness.’
Her parents demonstrate themselves as a strong life support: they are with her even in appealing, on bended knees, for her continuity in enrollment, loan, and every step a destitute Iska can take to get on by. The UPM admin refused all of that.
These are only glimpses. A deeper analysis is needed to find out what made other poor students of stronger mettle. But one thing was clearly demonstrated in this sad little episode of UP: the system failed Kristel. And it was surely this system that served as a critical tipping point, her professors in behavioral science attested.
It is something we can and should have addressed. If we removed the social context that tipped her, she might have had a better chance. I don’t have beef with people introspecting on how to build their loved ones’ character in the face of adversity. But I believe it is far more important to resolve an education system that presents suicide as an extreme option.