Every semester we’ve experienced under different variations of community quarantine was riddled with uncertainties and burdens that accumulated over the years. All stages of a regular semester leave an exceptionally poor impression: continuously worsening enrollment experience, unregulated and saturated requirements throughout the cramped conduct of classes, and the rushed preparation of the following semester overlapping with deadlines that leave constituents no room to breathe. (READ: UPLB students face 2nd online acad year with ‘unresolved’ set-up challenges)
Beyond academic burdens, the UPLB community has also been struck by nationwide environmental, economic, and political crises that were major hindrances to regular operations. Constituents residing in the Visayas and Mindanao region were devastated by Typhoon Odette in the recent months and in the year prior, constituents in the Luzon region by Typhoon Ulysses. Not to mention, the recent surge of COVID-19 cases after the holidays took its toll on students and faculty alike right when finals were scheduled to take place. Relief efforts from different organizations were quick to mobilize but calendar-wise, the end of the semester was left as a moral exercise for professors.
During the registration for the upcoming semester, calls to #JunkSAIS have resurfaced yet again. Many students failed to access the platform despite being priority students and claimed that ‘it was their slowest SAIS experience’ during their stay in the university. The underlying issue during the enrollment battle royale could be traced back to the lack of available classes and instructors.
The SAIS setbacks experienced by the students and faculty further fueled the calls for a genuine wellness break, citing the delay in registration and posting of grades. The UPLB administration responded to the calls of the students, faculty, and staff, by implementing the 2-week health break at the beginning of the semester. It was through the genuine and organic unity of the different sectors we were able to declare a common time to recover and process how the semester took place.
The call for a health and wellness break, however, does not stand on its own. This particular demand as well as previous calls for academic ease are strongly tied with the Ligtas Na Balik Eskwela (LNBE) campaign. It is important to recognize the deeper need to urgently address the ongoing health crisis, keeping in mind the students’ need to effectively learn as well as the need of faculty and staff to make a living. Businesses cannot proceed as usual with subpar contact tracing, the absence of mass testing, the lack of sufficient aid when the unemployment rate is at an alarming high, among other actionable problems.
Conversations surrounding LNBE are in no way new. The shared sentiments that students, faculty, and staff share resurface every semester. Even though the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) greenlit the conduct of F2F classes in areas until Alert Level 3, the entire education community remains in the dark regarding their safety and health with how ambiguous the declaration is.
The publication stands firm with the studentry and the entire UPLB community in light of the small victories and unending struggle campaigning for Ligtas Na Balik Eskwela, and at a larger scale, genuinely accessible education. Ligtas na balik-eskwela, ngayon na! [P]