For months, I was anxious about how I and my classmates were going to push through our education as we juggle the hardships of this pandemic.
Despite all our calls to postpone the opening of the classes this school year, the Commission of Higher Education (CHED) remained deaf to our dissent. They turned a blind eye on our existing problems like lack of preparation at the national level, and lack of resources and devices for thousands of students.
I was worried about how I will continue this semester under all the circumstances that we face today. Now, nearly two weeks after the opening of the academic year, this learning system has proven itself to be a nightmare.
A month before the academic year began, I convinced my parents to apply for cable internet. It is one of the main problems in remote learning – internet availability. I am lucky that the services are available in our area, and we have the means to acquire it. However, for more Filipino students, this burden is too much to be carried. The fact that the whole country is not covered with Telecommunication companies who provide internet access is already a gaping loophole in remote learning, not to mention that the country tops the slowest internet leaderboard. What more for those people who cannot afford it?
I can’t help but think about the thousands of students who are currently struggling with slow internet, or the complete lack of it. Parents are troubled, thinking how they will provide these services for their children on top of the constant need to provide necessities and the pressing anti-poor policies of the government.
It is also hard to focus when you’re at home 24/7. Most of us lack a learning conducive environment. Very few have the luxury of having a quiet stress-free area where they can study and attend classes. To add to this, not all Filipino homes are caring and loving.
I also want to point out that not all students can focus 100% on their schooling. If there is something that I realized in online learning, it’s the fact that studying virtually is more labor intensive, time consuming, energy draining, yet the quality of learning is still a small fraction in comparison with traditional mode of education. If this is the case for many of us, I can only imagine the burden it causes to working students, students who also have other responsibilities to look out for other members of their family and learners with a different desired style of learning.
To be honest, I am a visual-spatial and interpersonal learner. I get concepts and understand theories more if I have visual and interactive engagements with my peers and professors. For me, class interaction is a vital part of learning and that is something remote learning took away from all of us. Our online setup today does not fit me at all and I know I’m not the only one. Especially those people who take time to understand lessons. This setup is very rigid and inflexible. You do not have any choice but to understand a certain topic in a very specific time. If you did not get it in time, sorry for you but the lessons and activities will keep on coming and things will start to pile up. The next thing you will see is your self cramming papers rather than learning.
It is also important to point out that skill-based degree programs are heavily affected in terms of the quality of learning. I still remember back in my high school years, chemistry and biology laboratory experiments require you to have some vivid “imagination” since my school lacks laboratory facilities. As a result, I struggled in my chemistry and biology classes especially in the laboratory components of the said courses.
I can still remember that embarrassing moment when my professor asked us to use the microscope and I stared at it – not knowing what to do. Today’s educational situation is not far from that experience. We are forced to settle for online videos or do-it-yourself experiments and most of the time it does not work if we try to actualize it. I have a course that requires me to put up a garden. Imagine how hard it will be to do that if you are living in a highly urbanized area where most agricultural resources lack.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming professors for giving us a little extra reading material to supplement the learning modules or some home-based experiments. I know how much hard work was poured out to create learning materials. It’s just that learning wasn’t meant to be this way. Furthermore, isn’t it unfair that the administration’s decisions do not reflect datas coming from surveys? They did not even bother to have student or faculty representatives on devising plans for the online setup.
As the pandemic goes on, we see rising domestic abuse and violence. In a report written by Rappler, they said that on average, eight people are raped during the quarantine, most of them are minors and studying. How do you expect them to learn when they have to deal with their own battles at the same time? I can only imagine the horror of living with your abuser. Mental health is also highly compromised right now. The amount of internal and external stressors like how the government poorly handles their response also contribute to our already heavy baggage.
A number of students from all over the country were reported to commit suicide because of problems in relation to online classes. Now we see how stress and anxiety can affect everyone. Students are dying and lives are being cut short. If these events will not send you the emergency signal, I don’t know what will.
With everything happening simultaneously, we, students and faculty members alike, shout for postponement of the classes until the pandemic is addressed properly. We call for a Ligtas Balik Eskwela. We need to prepare learning materials, find support to our underprivileged students and teachers, bridge the gap between lacking resources and devices, establish a psychosocial support system, weave policies and regulation, roll out mass testing, and device a concrete national crisis management plan. I will never get tired to remind everyone that we deserved better from all of this. We must demand accountability from all the wrong decisions that this government committed to the nation.
Rage is an understatement to how I am feeling right now about the government’s incompetence. Our policy makers must stop ignoring our calls. We are the primary constituents, but for them, we are mere experiments under an ineffective mode of learning. We’re trillions in debt, yet the government provides no concrete solutions in disposal.
The notion is not about continuing the school year but the quality of delivering education. In the duration of this lockdown, we learned enough not to trust the egocentric decisions of bureaucrats. I do believe that halting education is not a choice, but the real question stands – are we truly learning? I don’t understand why CHED has to force everything down our throats and sacrifice the real essence of education, which is to learn. I am not afraid to continue the school year. What I am scared of is to pass this semester without learning at all. [P]
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