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Hide and Seek: How pandemic response affects young learners

Traditionally, the Hide and Seek game we played when we were kids has simple mechanics: One player closes their eyes for a brief period while the others hide. After the countdown, the player who shut their eyes will seek each one of the hiders.

Children are supposed to play this game with their friends and create childhood memories such as coming back home with dirt and sweat o after a long play day. They deserve to attain education at school without worrying about their safety. Unfortunately, these privileges are temporarily forbidden to kids due to the risk of COVID-19. For society’s youngest members, the effects of the pandemic go beyond the virus itself.

Seeking assurance and other players

When we play hide and seek, of course, we need to find friends to play with us. It will be more challenging for kids to find playmates in these trying times.

According to studies made by Harvard Health Publishing, being outside their home allows children to practice and develop essential life skills such as creativity, problem-solving, and social stimulation, the most significant skill a kid will learn outside.

With a global pandemic, kids only have their family members at home to be playmates. However, there are instances that a child may not have any playmates at home at all. Children must discover how to work and play with other kids, preferably around their age. They need to know how to make friends, share, cooperate, and interact with other people. 

With the limited interaction or even isolation from peers for a long time, upon adapting to a “stay-at-home” setting, they will not learn everything they need to know at their age. This scenario falls under Kostelnik’s (2015) claims that children’s social development affects their overall development and learning in this public health crisis.

In the case of children, coping amidst the pandemic can be overwhelming as it is a drastic change in their lifestyle. Various studies have warned that the lockdown imposed in response to COVID-19 could generate feelings of fear, worry, sadness, or stress. That is why parents’ understanding of children’s reactions and emotions is highly recommended, as it is essential to adequately address their emotional needs.

We must provide the young ones assurance that they have someone to rely on and spend time with, while they are forbidden to go outside and seek other playmates.

Blindly learning in the remote setup

Before starting a game, it is vital to know the basic rules and mechanics to play effectively. In a parallel aspect, it is crucial to have a good foundation of basic education.

Another academic year started in the Philippines last September hence, the second year of the remote learning scheme. With reports announcing Venezuela’s reopening of schools last October 25, the Philippines has become the only country yet to reopen schools on site. 

On social media, the struggles of high school and college students are very much in the limelight as they have the power to voice out. At the same time, the learning situation of children is still trapped in the shadows, constantly neglected, when in fact, it is the younger elementary kids in dire need of “Ligtas na Balik Eskwela.”

Despite the remote learning’s second run, teachers, parents, and students are still in the process of adjusting. Consequently, it is still a challenge to attain the best quality of learning, especially to younger students who require more comprehensive attention from educators and parents.

An anonymous interviewee, who preferred to be called Lana, is a parent of a grade 1 learner whom she decided to drop out from S.Y. 2020-2021 because of the following challenges their family faced this pandemic.

“Wala akong choice kung hindi i-drop muna ang anak ko sa school year na ito dahil hindi ko natutukan ang kanyang pag-aaral sa modular distance learning set-up. Nagkaroon ng major operation ang lola niya na mas nangangailangan ng aking atensyon, habang ang asawa ko ay nagtatrabaho buong maghapon upang mapunan ang perang panggastos sa operasyon at sa araw-araw na pangkain. Mabigat sa aking pakiramdam na napabayaan ko ang pag-aaral ng aking anak ngunit wala akong magawa. Kaya sa susunod na pasukan, ngayon na maayos na ang condition ng nanay ko, mas matutuunan ko na nang pansin ang pag-aaral ng aking anak, lalo na at nasa Grade 1 pa lamang siya.”

[I had no choice but to drop out of my daughter this current school year because I could not provide her the attention she needed for learning under modular distance learning. Her grandmother underwent a major operation who needs adequate attention. Meanwhile, my husband works the whole day to provide the money for the operation and daily necessities. It was hard for me to neglect my daughter’s education. However, I had no choice. That is why this next school year, I will make sure to give proper attention to my daughter’s education, especially that she is in Grade 1.]

Lana also agrees to the safe resumption of face-to-face classes in the future.

Movement for Safe, Equitable, Quality and Relevant Education (SEQuRE) is a union of teachers, parents, students, and education organizations that advocates for the fulfillment of people’s basic education rights amid the pandemic. One of their studies ascertained that more than 50% of students from different learning modalities stated that they “learned less” under alternative learning modes compared with the traditional face-to-face setup.

Therefore, there is no assurance of the current setup’s efficacy among learners of the current academic year, implying the lack of substance in terms of the rushed preparation under the new normal educational setup.

Moreover, instead of a detailed matrix and fully equipped plans, there was more oversight upon the execution process of remote learning in our country. The blended learning setup made the class privileges more prevalent. Thus, the quality of education received by students vary with the opportunities, environment, and equipment they possess.

With these, enrolment rates depleted with 14.7 million enrolled students in primary education for School Year 2021-2022, representing 56.4 percent of last year’s total number of enrollees, according to DepEd data.

Countdown is over

The second year of remote learning with underlying lapses urged Filipino students, teachers, and education advocates to continuously aim for Ligtas na Balik Eskwela, which requires coordinated measures from the national government, LGUs, school administrators, parents, teachers, and the students.

For Ligtas na Balik Eskwela to be effectively materialized, the Kabataan Partylist proposed a plan to which the national government shall support and provide an adequate allocation of funds for the collaboration of LGUs and schools to conduct careful, thorough, and scientific risk assessments. After exhibiting such reviews, school administrators must ensure that the proposed roadmap shall be feasible on upholding both students’ and teachers’ safety while attaining quality education upon the physical resumption of classes. Meanwhile, the national government must constantly strengthen people-oriented health programs amid this public health crisis, especially the mass vaccination programs for students, parents, teachers, and ordinary Filipinos to reach the country’s ideal herd immunity. 

In this hide and seek game, Filipinos play as the seeker: In great thirst to seek accurate responses from the administration who seems to hide and further delay the response to this pandemic. When COVID-19 struck the Philippines, the current administration seemed to play the game of hiding from the Filipino nation by responding to this public health crisis in a militaristic approach rather than the more accurate and appropriate measures. 

In this prolonged chaotic game of hide and seek with the government, the countdown is finally over: with two years of counting and waiting for an accurate response. It is now time to chase those who hide from their responsibility and delay the development of millions of Filipino youth. [P]

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