Hustling through the hassle
In March, schools abruptly switched to online platforms after the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic reached Philippine shores. Faced with new problems, students who enrolled for this school year are forced to cope with more challenges than what they are used to in face-to-face classes.
While some are privileged enough to go along smoothly with the change, some are struggling to acquire the proper tools needed to continue their education and finish on time. Those who have existing mental health problems and those who are susceptible to it, struggle to adjust and are forced to change their routines.
Not so tech-savvy
The demands of the pandemic had pushed schools to continue classes through digital means. Freshman Fidel* spends Php 99 per week for mobile data. For him, using mobile data is cheaper than paying for a monthly internet plan with poor quality service as long as the utility is limited to school-related activities.
The case is also the same for students who have unstable internet connection and fear sudden loss of internet in the middle of a quiz or sending an assignment. “Gawala-wala jud siya (internet connection) labi na if buntag […] so wala koy choice, kailangan ko magpa-load,” Sarah* shares, further explaining that she has a synchronous class in the morning that often has a graded oral recitation.
For Andrew L. Gotianun Sr Center for Integrated Technologies (ALG-CIT) graduate Miraflor Entera, internet connection isn’t even half of the struggle yet. With hundreds of other students in the Philippines, she joined the #PisoParaSaLaptop campaign, a fundraiser initiated by students who cannot afford their own gadgets to utilize for online class. Entera shares, “Gusto kaayo ko makahuman sa pagskwela kay we can’t deny the fact nga mas nindot ang trabaho og salary sa taong makahuman og skwela.”
Mental health on the line
The challenges do not stop at the lack of materials but also involve the mental health of students. Unstable internet connection and having inefficient gadgets can cause stress. We are forced to face our gadgets all day, paving the way to distractions on the internet. “Sleep deprivation caused by internet distractions challenges the immune system and brain, and affects our emotions,” XU Guidance Counselor Joey Marie Fabe-Jegonia explains. She adds that “too much exposure on [sic] the internet can cause depression.”
On top of that, learning the given topics has become trickier, which contributes to the anxiety that we won’t do as good in online classes as we did in physical classes. For Sarah, asking for help in mathematics from classmates is different through online and in person. “Maka-ask man gyapon ko through chat pero di gyapon ko kasabot so galisod ko gamay,” she shares.
Jegonia encourages students to incorporate into their routines the STOP method which stands for stop, take a breath, observe, and proceed in order to manage stress and anxiety. Little things such as eating and sleeping well, performing physical exercises, and connecting with friends can also lessen feelings of tiredness and lack of motivation. Asking teachers what they expect of you beforehand can also pave clearer paths of preparation that produce paid-off efforts. “Come up with a structure as if it’s still a face-to-face class,” Jegonia advises.
No more breaks
Recently, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) announced that colleges and universities are free to adjust their academic calendar—even allowing them to remove Christmas and summer breaks. CHED chairperson Prospero de Vera also agrees with universities using weekends as school days because of the flexibility of online classes.
A debate goes on to whether this move is more beneficial than damaging or vice versa. The pandemic has caused the momentum of regular classes to fall, and removing breaks can help us slowly return to normal as another academic year comes. But online class also brings challenges and frustrations of its own to both students and teachers.
Colleges and universities should be more considerate, should acknowledge the struggles that students face and create guidelines that are more efficient and beneficial to both students and the administration, especially in XU where the holistic growth of students is promoted as a key part of its education system.
Students are not disagreeing with removing breaks and asking for academic freeze just because they don’t feel like it. Before we are students, we are also humans who need to take care of our physical and mental well-being in order to do our studies well. Online classes will only be truly flexible when the needs of the students, teachers, and the administration are properly balanced through cooperation and healthy communication.