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Emotionally coping with this strange invisible enemy named COVID-19 was a challenge for all.
by Darryl Peñaredondo   |  May 13, 2020
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Words: Darryl Banay Peñaredondo

Allowing students to cope up with the changes brought by the coronavirus disease, several schools and professors opt to cancel requirements and pass their students. As an act of compassion, top performing universities including Ateneo de Manila University, University of the Philippines, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila gave out passing mark to all their students with proper directives and guidelines that brought questions to other universities that can’t do the same.

Students and teachers, admit it or not, are the soul of any institutions (schools, universities or colleges). The development and growth of the students reflected to the quality of education they offer. Hence, quality education only grows if universities can give proper care to their learners specifically a help to ask students’ concerns about their struggles during this time of crisis. It is worth listening and involving the students, also non-regular employees we wish to help because their views and discernment is the tool to accurately respond to what the institution need in this time of quarantine.

Over the past few days, students’ sentiments and perceptions became an important determinant to show how a Higher Education Industry (HEI) imbibes the values of progressive leadership — whether they acknowledge the need to open their ears and hearts to self-awareness or not. Emotionally coping with this strange invisible enemy named COVID-19 was a challenge for all. Online classes is done in normal situations, we’re in the middle of a crisis. It is impossible for ‘all’ students to fulfill their requirements, communication and learning-wise. It is so unfair to not take considerations, especially in state universities, where over half of the population is living in a life of “one scratch, one peck.”

According to the Philippine Constitution, higher education institutions are mandated, whether public or private, to operate within an environment of laws and policies that aim to guarantee and protect the right to education of all citizens by ensuring that institutions of learning promote access, equity.... Going back, I believe that giving bunch of works and requirements in this outbreak doesn’t promote enough access and equity.

Another option is providing learning materials for students who don’t have enough resources such as gadgets, internet etc… But what if they lend it as future investment for facilities, laboratories and equipment that they lack of? Another reason to think. Still, we cannot deny the fact that we are not yet ready for this situation, and so, flexible learning.

According to Commission on Higher Education Commissioner Prospero de Vera, months of May to July should be used to ‘prepare’ for the flexible learning system, which will be implemented for the coming academic year. Needless to say, rolling out flexible learning at this moment is unnecessary ?again, we are not yet prepared. But in an unfortunate instance, everyone is not just physically dealing with their health, but also mentally. In this unexpected time in history, we might develop feelings of fear, anxiety and stress in that plays and overwhelms their overall welfare. According to The University of British Columbia, to understand stress and the stress response, one needs to recognize someone else’s stress.

Students’ mental health is one major problem, as they grapple between prioritizing their welfare and their academic requirements. In a published article of Anjali Hazari, a research conducted over the past 30 years has shown that students learn better when they perceive the learning environment ? refers to the social, psychological context in whixh learning occurs ?positively. In that, I believe schools need to adhere this problem Generation Z and Alpha (which we call millennial) facing right now. What doesn’t seem a problem for a person might be a major problem for another. If a student from a university has infected with the virus, I hope none, how is he gonna fulfill his academic requirements? Is he gonna fail his subjects? With all the privacy and discrimination to the victims of the deadly virus, I’m crossing my fingers that you won’t leave them behind.

Student-driven solutions to educational inequity is all we want. Involving students’ sentiments into the process of decision making is vital in the light of COVID-19, because they can give clues on how effective a university is, especially their feedbacks about the institution’s present condition. Their comments can reveal the institutions’ weakest points, and if enough of them share the same discernment, maybe it’s time to re-calibrate and reassess. Students’ criticism should be taken constructively. It’s not yet late to change the imposed guidelines and policies for new normal. I believe that change isn’t just a diversion, but a proper way of learning. Dropping some ego will not make an HEI less competent during this crisis. If HEI still pursue to give boatload of academic works, in a life where the main reason to study is to afford a ticket to our dreams, we have nothing to do but follow and be a slave of our dreams in this uncertain time.

To understand the students on a deeper level, higher education institution must learn how to listen without judgement. We are locked in a cell that has no bars and we became prisoners of the threat that is beyond our control. This is not a crusade of the slaves, but it’s the perfect time to listen to the collective voices of the people ? we are your learners, not your slaves.

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