The beginning of each DLSU academic year’s second term is often associated with having Saturday classes, with freshman students taking up their chosen National Service Training Program (NSTP). For two consecutive terms, the youngest batch of Lasallians is given the opportunity to experience weekends of military training or community engagement.
With the recent issue concerning alleged illicit actions conducted within one of the NSTP components of the University, the freshmen climate changed drastically as students began weighing their options to meet practical measures and interests.
The law applies to all
The establishment of the NSTP is pursuant to Republic Act No. 9163, more commonly known as the NSTP Law passed in 2001. The law was authored with the objective of stressing the role of the youth in nation building.
The aforementioned law stipulates that all college degree courses and technical-vocational courses of at least two years are required to have a certain number of community service units included in the program. Taking the required units is a requisite for graduation.
RA 9163 provided for three forms of service that can be offered, namely the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), the Civic Welfare Training Service (CWTS), and the Literacy Training Services (LTS).
According to the law, Higher Education Institutions (HEI) are only required to offer at least one of the said service components, but state universities and colleges must offer the ROTC and at least one other component to its students.
DLSU currently offers only ROTC and CWTS as NSTP courses. Dean of Student Affairs Fritzie de Vera clarifies that LTS has been integrated into CWTS, with certain sections conducting tutorials as part of their community service.
NSTP-CWTS Program Manager and Team Leader Mark Balderama agrees with de Vera, and furthers that there are certain communities where numeracy and literacy skills are being taught to students.
He adds, however, that the law only requires the University to offer one of the three components, with the choice of having two NSTP courses being DLSU’s prerogative. Offering more than what is legally required will give students the ability to choose between the options, and not relegate them to only one of the programs.
Balderama says that the system behind the selection of community services offered under CWTS is based on the needs of partner organizations. These partner organizations serve as gateway to the communities and areas where the CWTS program can be implemented.
The NSTP-CWTS program manager ensures that the goals and objectives of partner organizations chosen are in line with DLSU’s vision-mission statement. Balderama explains that this should be considered, so both the students and communities could maximize the benefits of the program.
In order to qualify as one of the program’s partners, the organization must have been in existence for at least three years, with an established long-term strategic plan, and they should be accredited by government agencies such as Department of Social Welfare and Development, or licensed under the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Compare and contrast
De Vera says that RA 9163 gives schools the autonomy over the administration and supervision of the different NSTP components. In Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), where NSTP is offered during a student’s sophomore year, the students are pre-enlisted for NSTP PLUS, an integration of both CWTS and LTS. During the first weeks of the year, classroom sessions are administered, followed by immersions in different communities near the college.
On the other hand, students from University of Santo Tomas (UST) are given the choice to enroll in an integrated CWTS and LTS course during their second year, similar to ADMU’s system. During their first semester, students are only required to go to school for orientation, preliminary exams, and final exams, with their CWTS and LTS lectures provided online. For the next term, they will be tasked to conduct 54 hours of fieldwork to apply the concepts they had learned from the discussions in the previous semester.
Both ADMU and UST offer the ROTC program to their students. Ateneans and Thomasians can opt to choose the program over CWTS. They can inform their respective Student Affairs Office counterparts of their chosen community service before enrollment.
Balderama says that unlike other universities, DLSU aims to offer a more holistic approach in community service. He explains that the focus of CWTS is to establish a partnership with the community and to conduct short-term development projects for its members. This is done by first having orientations and training during the first term of CWTS, and then formulation of plans which are implemented in the following term.
Students who have heavy academic loads for the second and third terms feel that choosing ROTC would limit their productivity during the weekends, since a student will be spending five hours for ROTC on Saturdays in comparison to the three hours required in CWTS.
Further, male freshmen students are also hindered by the haircut requirement, as cadets are required to sport a specified cut every training day, while some consider the ROTC uniforms expensive given that they will be needing them for only two terms.
Having to participate in physically draining activities has also been cited as the primary cause for freshmen students to prefer CWTS over its counterpart, ROTC. Michelle Ferrer (I, CHE) considers this as one of the reasons for choosing CWTS, adding, “It feels a lot better to reach out to less fortunate people through social programs offered by CWTS.”
Lasallians who choose ROTC for their community service requirement do it as an extension of their high school senior year Citizen Army Training or ACT. ROTC alumni also share that they choose the program to be able to participate in military training, a whole new different experience compared to CWTS activities.