Cora Contrabida is Unable to Connect

Illustration by Sumayyah Caris

The apocalypse looms on the horizon with promises of death and disease and the threat of a dystopian future becomes much more probable as the days go on—casualties skyrocket by the thousands, plans for mass testing and contact tracing are apparently non-existent, malls are being shut down (and opened back up), and the perils of the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are nowhere near from being extinguished. And yet, amidst all that has been and is still to come, I go back to school on Monday.

Well, not “go back” as in physically return to campus with everyone else and inadvertently heighten my chances of contracting the disease—we all just get to experience excellence digitally for the time being. It’s the University’s attempt at a Flexible Learning sort of arrangement for the new AY. At first glance, portable learning packets and online classes for Home-Based Learning don’t seem that bad, given the circumstances. But why the rush though? The curve hasn’t even flattened yet, and there’s always talk about a second (or even a third) wave possibly coming.

I’m open to the idea of trying every possible opportunity to get my academic career back on track, yet I still hesitate at the thought of my classroom being constrained to my tiny bedroom, of my professor being reduced to a patch of pixels on my screen, of my entire course work crammed into a learning packet like one massive months-worth of homework. And that’s already speaking from a place of privilege. Is it worth what I paid and will be paying for?

With the thousands of students at the University, not everyone has the luxury of laptops and phones, much more a stable internet connection. The pandemic has been evident with its dent on people’s financial statuses as well, with parents being laid off or displaced from their jobs and opportunities to work becoming less available. If you find yourself convinced and not even mildly inconvenienced by this proposition, good for you. But the possibility of a student being more hard-pressed and burdened during these trying times is very real. Of course, the school will be ready to provide aid, but to what extent? I can’t even imagine any university would go through the lengths to provide tablets, laptops, and mobile WiFi devices to every single student in need. Ha.

It all just seems too soon.

It’s the first week of classes. I’m hunkered down on my laptop, bearing the afternoon heat permeating my grandparent’s house in the province. With all the risks that came with a big city like CDO, my parents thought it best to retreat to a family home where contact with other humans was minimal. This was, of course, before I realized the toll it would take on my academics this year. It’s nearly impossible to listen to the pre-recorded lesson playing in front of me. Street dogs bark incessantly, roosters crow into my ear like they have nothing else to do, and the bang of pots and pans from the kitchen are endless. The reason I go to school in the first place was to avoid all this. Maybe I’ll try again later.

By midnight, I have used up all my GOSURF50 data. And I’ve already spent almost half of my allowance on load alone: downloading videos and resources to view later, attending online conference calls, submitting documents and assignments. Sigh, at least on campus I had XU-Students to hang onto. My cursor hovers over the computer’s calendar, July 2020. It’s been a few months in and there’s no noticeable difference from how things were before. The virus is still out there, a real, menacing threat to us all. Now, I’m just distracted by the online 15-point quiz I have to take.

I think the school, just like me, yearns for things to get back to normal. The University is hardly to blame for this crisis. However, the urge to get back to the way things were, albeit altered accordingly, seems a bit forceful. The large digital divide is growing more pronounced among the students, and the country’s despairingly slow internet connections don’t help. We’re unmotivated and merely comply for the sake of passing (a lot more than usual). To be honest, the excellence I was promised seems much more disconnected now that I’m stuck at home. I close my laptop with the dwindling hope of trying again tomorrow.C

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