A young kid with his lola out in the fields where he could get better internet access for his online classes amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
By Tracy Cabrera
MANILA — Vincent Kelvin studies alone inside his home that he shares with his family. Like many in his eleventh-grade class, he has an ‘on-and-off internet connection for his shuttered school’s online lessons.
A year after the coronavirus pandemic sent the whole country into a year-long lockdown, classrooms across the archipelago remain empty and children are still quarantined inside their homes.
Fearing youngsters could catch the virus and infect elderly family members and even their neighbors, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has refused to lift the restrictions until they have completed the national vaccination program—something that could take years experts says because of the slow vaccine rollout that is dependent on the delivery of donated and government-procured vaccines.
In recent developments, it appears that the chief executive’s decision to disallow face-to-face learning is right since there is an ongoing surge in the number of Covid infections and transmissions possibly caused by the public’s complacency and their disregard to obey minimum health safety protocols amidst the emergence of mutated variants of Covid-19.
A ‘blended learning’ program involving online classes, printed materials and lessons broadcast on television and social media was launched in October, four months after the school year was supposed to start. But it has been plagued with problems: most students in the Philippines don’t have a computer or internet at home.
“Sobrang hirap talaga, mahirap kasi mabagal iyong internet connection at minsan nawawala pa . . . Tapos hindi pa ligal ang kuryente namin kasi nakadepende kami sa paggamit ng ‘jumper’ para magkaroon kami ng elektrisidad,” said Vincent, sitting in his house next to the polluted Maypajo river.
“Masaya sa school. Mas madaling mag-aral at matuto doon,” the 16-year-old enthused.
Vincent’s cousin, Nico, also has difficulties with his online classes. Now in college and enrolled at the University of the East Technical School in Caloocan, he, too, complains about the hardships in virtual classes.
“Iba ang scenario kapag home study. Malayo ang atmosphere kung ikukumpera sa classroom. Maraming mga distraction kaya may mga pagkakataong kailangang ulitin mo ang mga assignment mo para lang maunawaan ng husto,” Nico noted.
In a television interview, one grade school pupil admitted how it has been difficult for him to continue his studies using the online learning system implemented by the Department of Education (DepEd).
The Grade 3 pupil said he had to go out of his house and use his tablet to access his online classes at a nearby cemetery where there was better internet connectivity than inside their small house.
“Doon siya sa ibabaw ng nitso gumagamit ng kanyang tablet kasi malakas ang net doon at mas madali niyang nabubuksan ang kanyang mga lesson,” his mother enthused.
Meanwhile, Vincent’s teacher, Diane, runs a class over Facebook Messenger with most of her students, despite having been provided with borrowed tablets, experiencing difficulties in their online access because of the bad Internet connection
Using heart and thumb emojis, those that can join signal if they have understood or have questions about the lesson Ms. Diane had pasted into their group chat.
The truth is that her students don’t always have internet and what data they have isn’t enough for video calls.
“Subjects that require hands-on activity like science, mathematics—how can we do that in the messenger?” the teacher asked.
The rest of her students rely on printed materials that have been simplified by the school to ease the burden on her young students.
In other classes, there are teachers who visit their students struggling to keep up—and delivers bags of vegetables or much-needed food supplies to their families.
Diane worries that her students are not learning much and she’s frustrated by the government’s failure to prepare schools for a return to in-person classes.
“Their right to education should not be hampered by this pandemic,” she stressed. (AI/MTVN)