Academic freeze – the best option


(With minor editing, in accordance with The Manila Times style, the winning piece in the Best Editorial High School Level of the 2020 Campus Press Awards is reprinted here in its entirety with permission from the author and the school.)

In response to the adaptations caused by the Covid-19 pandemic since the very first month of community quarantine [in March 2020], the Department of Education (DepEd) was already determined to promote and push online classes during the existence of this predicament.

Sanitation staff in PPE disinfects the classroom in preparation for the supposedly dry run of resumption of face-to-face classes in January. THE MANILA TIMES FILE PHOTO

But now that this proposal has been brought into reality, remonstrances and protests from the students suffering its aftermath are persistently calling the government’s attention to act upon this “only-for-the-privileged” implementation.

Going back to what President Rodrigo Duterte had stated in his recorded address aired on June 5, he firmly reiterated that no classes should happen until a Covid-19 vaccine was already developed.

It was an immensely relieving moment for all the students of our country when he included this extremely important matter in the discussion. Given the mere fact that it would not only lessen the burden students might carry if ever it has taken place, but it would also somehow alleviate the financial expenses classes might cause them.

Mollifying was the time when every student’s hope for relief was high as these words from the President’s mouth were uttered. But all of these became nothing when the promotion for online classes and such educational modalities were eventually implemented.

Left with only two choices, students were stuck between incomplete options, neither of which they ever want to choose. Choices that only the privileged ones could afford. Options that might put the penniless in immense destitution.

Should they stop or continue?

Months have passed after its imposition, evidently, students are the first in line to feel the pinch of its (distance learning) unexpected impacts. Stress, pressure, anxiety, sickness, financial problems and depression — these are only a few of the mental and behavioral effects students are currently facing as they deal with the adjustments brought by this new educational mode. But what’s even worse, there were already recorded cases of deaths that are said to be caused by online learning.

In the province of Capiz, a 20-year-old female student died in a road accident on her way home after looking for a stable internet connection outside their compound.

Another 20-year-old male student from Bohol died, together with his 26-year-old brother who was helping him install an internet device for the online class. The brothers were electrocuted. They were rushed to the Dimiao Infirmary but were eventually declared dead on arrival due to severe and critical injuries.

There were also recorded cases of student’s death due to suicide. Of the 19 cases of deaths, one was due to electrocution, another was caused by vehicular accident and the remaining 17 were suicides.

But as the DepEd stated “Stop connecting directly such suicide incidents to modules or distance learning,” it is clear that it is throwing away the blame it actually has accountability for. Whether it is directly or indirectly associated with the burden brought by online classes, it still contributed to the influences and factors of reasons why these students committed suicide.

Everything has been forcefully adjusted by the inevitable impacts of this global health dilemma. From the ways we usually do things, places we typically go to, closeness we actually enjoy, up to the interaction we used to experience — everything has been demarcated by the protocols imposed by the government.

The extreme casualties massively caused by the Covid-19 pandemic seems to create havoc on almost every single aspect of everybody’s life. It is not only the world’s economic status that is now being chained to immense malison, but it is also the moral, disposition, mental health, financial capability, health and safety of everyone that are being thrown into a hollow of dire jeopardy.

This new setup of the educational system is frankly a rotten fruit of illogical decision-making and uncertain effects of the pandemic. Millions of students have been left behind, as their families’ financial capacity can no longer sustain some of their basic needs as they first need to prioritize the fundamentals.

And this is only an explicit manifestation that our country should also prioritize first what things are needed to be prioritized. We all are in a massively remorseless global health dilemma right now, and our health and safety are the most denotative aspect among anything.

Yes, education is such and will forever be one of the most valuable things in this world, but putting our difficult situation in profound consideration, education can wait but life can never [be put on hold].