by Aryandhi A. Almodal
Many students have to rely only on their smartphones and mobile Internet data to be able to participate in remote learning. And as if this is not challenging enough, some students also live in far-flung areas where phone signal is very weak.
This is the battle that Joappee and Michelle, both first year students at a university in Bicol, have to go through everyday to be able to conquer their remote learning ordeal on the island of Masbate.
Remote learning has been very difficult for many students. Some are fortunate to be able to afford their own computers, high-speed Internet service, and a conducive learning space, making remote learning a breeze. But for Joappe and Michelle, this is a luxury they cannot afford.
This is a word that is very frustrating and traumatizing for Joappee.
Her daily routine of waking up early to attend her synchronous classes is no easy task. Since she has unstable phone signal at her house, she has to travel all the way to seaside area near their town, where there is stable signal.
As she is not the only one at the place, she needs to endure the constant shouting and noisy banters of mobile game players who are also there for the signal.
“I want to tell them to keep their voices down, but the place is free of charge and they are the first ones to arrive there, “ she said in Bicolano.
Needless to say, she is also risking her health everyday in traveling there and being around those many people.
This situation also hinders her from actively participating in class recitations. She felt awkward reciting as there were people who might listen to her recite.
“Do I really learn anything? I only attend our online class for the attendance,” she said.
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With mobile data as the only viable means for Michelle to access her school’s Learning Management System (LMS), budgeting her money for load was necessary. In a month when all she has was a 500-peso allowance from her mother, she has to choose only very necessary online materials and supplemental videos to view and access so she will be able to meet her budget.
She would only rely on accessing the uploaded readings in their LMS. Because of expensive data plans, sometimes she would opt not to attend her synchronous classes in Zoom meetings, which consume a big amount of data.
“It’s tiring to have a constant need to only choose recorded videos to watch which will consume only small data. There are also times when I question myself if my professors know me since I barely take part in the recitation or because I am always absent,”
The financial constraints added on top of the unstable phone signal made her anxiety worse.
Michelle has big dreams of becoming a lawyer, but that was before the pandemic. She had experienced a lack of motivation in everything that she does.
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Growing up in a town fixated with the idea of graduating on time and being successful at an early age is a constant struggle for Joappee and Michelle. It is a dilemma between taking a break from their studies, but getting delayed, or pushing through and enduring remote learning struglles, but graduating on time.
For Joappee, being the eldest child in their family, taking a break is a luxury she cannot afford. As she is considering shifting to another degree program at a private university, she cannot afford to waste time. As a coping mechanism, she now focuses her time finding new hobbies and establishing her own online shop to support her studies.
On the other hand, Michelle had thought about taking a break from her studies, as she finds her remote learning efforts to be futile . But because she is considering taking up law after her bachelor’s degree, she is discouraged from taking a break.
In the end, both of them really don’t have a choice but to push through — and to literally go the extra mile — just to finish their degrees on time to be able to support their families.