Within the next few weeks, schools all across the country will be having their annual student government elections. The elected student leaders will then assume their positions when the new academic year begins (or in some cases, during the summer term).
Ideally, this activity should be a training ground for the youth in exercising their right to suffrage. Sadly, a lot of students take this opportunity for granted.
Before we explain why, it must first be understood that active engagement in campus politics can come in two ways. There are the few brave souls who actually seek elective office. The rest, though they do not run as candidates, take part in the process by casting their vote.
It is much better if more students will offer themselves as candidates. Elections, whether at the national, local, or school level, are supposed to give the public the chance to choose among the candidates and the ideas they are presenting. How will that happen if certain candidates are running unopposed?
A cursory look at how student council elections are conducted will easily give you an idea of the problems affecting the Philippine political system. For instance, a lot of candidates rely on their looks and catchy slogans to earn the votes of students. Sometimes one can’t help but wonder if these kids are really up to the task of being a student leader or if they are only seeking popularity.
Unfortunately, the absurdness of the campaigns obscure the fact that student leaders, once they take office, have to grapple with their respective school administrations for serious issues like tuition increases, campus policies, among others.
This must be kept in mind: the school managers cannot possibly talk to all students one-on-one in making policy decisions. Instead, they consult the students’ elected representatives. Therefore, it is really important to stress to these student leaders whose interests they should be fighting for.
During the campaign, aspiring leaders should be able to satisfactorily answer the following questions:
1) Why do you think should students support your candidacy? Discuss your qualifications and track record.
2) If elected, what things will you be working on?
3) What are the biggest issues in the campus that needs to be addressed?What suggestions do you have in mind to solve them?
“Can you win?” should not be the most important question to ask. Instead, it should be “What is your plan for the future, and how do you get us there?”
Doing these enables the studentry to have informed choices, which is what democracy is really all about. Of course, as much as possible, the voters should also make an effort to know more about the issues at hand.
Are they concerned about the annual increase in matriculation fees? What about the unjustified laboratory fees? Or the school’s inconsistent implementation of the “No ID, no entry policy”? And, what can be done as regards teachers who are not doing their jobs?
The room-to-room campaign being done by the candidates should be used by the voters to ask questions. Unless they do it, the candidates will most likely spend their time just smiling, waving, and winking to their fellow students.
And if that is the case, then negligent students won’t have the right complain that their student leaders are doing nothing for their welfare because they did not do their part in “screening” them.