A FTER some weeks more or
• ^ less out of touch with everyone and everything. I am now going to the opposite extreme and meeting thousands of people daily. They are the great mass of students who crowd the universities in relays from morn till night.
The growth of this teeming, earnest student population is almost certainly the most important and far-reaching post-war development here in the Philippines. The thirst for higher education is insatiable. Every university's enrolment total has gone up by leaps and bounds, year by year, since the end of the war.
What all the graduates will do, where they will go and how they will be absorbed, no one even pretends to know. Yet still the numbers go on mounting. —
jr4 a quadrangle formed by large
new university buildings I gave the commencement address at the Far Eastern University's graduation ceremony the other night. Some ten or twelve thousand students were in the audience and more crowded the windows of the surrounding buildings.
In many cases, as the titles and degrees were conferred by the University President, parents proudly accompanied their son or daughter on to the tribune. Sometimes they were obviously middleclass people. Occasionally they were well-known in political or professional life. But frequently the young man or woman would be accompanied by an old peasant mother, proud but flustered by the dignitaries on the platform, the bright lights and the flashing cameras.
All over the Philippines today there are illiterate or semi-literate people in remote villages, who live as their fathers have lived for centuries before them. Their homes are little split-bamboo huts on stilts, set amid banana trees and lush tropical vegetation.
Their life revolves around the sowing, transplanting, tending and harvesting of rice. For this reason it revolves around the grotesque, ungainly but patient and strong caribao (water-buffalo) which is their work animal.
R UT something new has entered " into their lives. When a son or daughter is born they start saving, heaven alone knows how. from their tiny, heavily mortgaged earnings, so that some day he or she may go to university. It is not just that they demand for their children that minimum of education of which they were deprived. They want everything. The best that money can buy. There can be tragedy in such a Situation. The thrift and ambitions of the parents are not what decides their child's I.Q. Money alone, no matter how hard-earned, cannot buy the ability to reach university level.
And even where that exists, there is no guarantee that the youngster, fired by his parents' enthusiasm, prodded by the consciousness of their sacrifices, will necessarily make the grade even
after reaching university.
One half of the medical students fail to get past their second year. That is a cold statement of fact, but, against the background I have described, this can mean a great deal of human tragedy.
WATCHED with pleasure the other night the successful ohes coming on to the platform to receive their titles and degrees. But I remembered the young man, son of peasant parents, who that week —and he was one of many—had learned that his, and his parents' dream of his becoming a doctor was at an end.
He had not planned some brilliant future, with a fashionable practise in a big city. Filled with a sense of vocation, a good young Catholic, he had dreamed of returning to his own barrio (village) folk, bringing to them the first expert medical attention they had ever .had—the majority of the people of the country-side here die without medical attention of any sort Now the dream was over. His parents' money, which they had scraped together over the years, was gone. He felt that he could not return to his home and to the barrio folk who had sent him off in fine style two years ago.
In the city he would almost certainly be jobless. Lawyers and other men with degrees are driving buses, mending roads in Manila city. There is a limit to the number of jobs for graduates in a non-industrial society such as this.
Such frustration, on such a scale, may have profound political repercussions in the years ahead. It could drive young men and women into Communism. It could just as easily—perhaps even more easily—drive them into some sort of fascism.
THE Far Eastern University has
an enrolment of 38,000. There will be an extra 5,000 next year. I have just come from the University of the East which has 32,000 students. Yesterday I lectured at the Dominican-run university of Santa Tomas, with more than 10,000 students. There are at least a dozen such universities in the capital alone.
Fortunately, side by side with this great growth in the number of students has gone the extension of Catholic Student Action. This is entirely run by the Columban Fathers ("Maynooth Mission to
C hi become the largest and most significant'') has si g. i
nificant student body of any sort in the whole of the Far East. It is doing a splendid job in fostering an apostolic spirit and a sense of vocation among the youngsters who crowd the colleges and universities. 11 numbers its members in hundreds of thousands.
Currently it is concentrating in particular on moulding and forming Christian leaders from among its mass membership. If it succeeds in this, as seems likely on present showing, it can be instrumental in changing Filipino life at every level.