by John Mark D. Ayap
“Mabuti na nagkakaroon na ng Face-to-face (F2F) classes, pero sana handa na talaga lahat para dito.” This is what Gabrielle Dela Torre, a third year development communication student at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) had to say when asked about the call for #LigtasNaBalikEskwela for academic year 2022-2023.
As early as 2020, safe reopening of classes had been one of the demands amplified by student councils and student organizations not only at UPLB but also in other schools and universities, with hopes for immediate action and response from university administrations and the government.
Here are some of the tweets about #LigtasNaBalikEskwela.
SECOND SEMESTER DONE!
My anxiety keeps getting worse after every online sem, so please #LigtasNaBalikEskwela na tayo UP! 💗 The faculty and the students deserve better!
— blueberry lemon bubbles (@bernminatarnate) June 13, 2022
Hanggat walang #LigtasNaBalikEskwela, maraming mapag-iiwanan.#UPLBWalangIwanan
— Mark Gio #RejectMarcosDuterte (@mrkgio) June 12, 2022
However, posts and tweets of students asking to heed their calls for the safe reopening of classes only give us one side of the story. LB Times spoke with four UPLB students to find out their thoughts on the campaign, the possibilities of the return of face-to-face classes, and the current socio-political and economic conditions that affect their perspectives on the campaign.
On The Reopening of Classes
Joana Ocampo from the College of Development Communication believes that moving back to the university for physical classes is just one of the many steps needed toward the successful implementation of its safe reopening. She believes that the campaign is important for students because it will be easier for them to understand their lessons and communicate their questions and clarifications to their professors, without having to face problems like poor and unstable internet connection, which is observable in online synchronous sessions.
She also said that having the capability to work in a natural setting made for learning, that is conducive, would help learners focus on their studies without any distractions.
Dan Eric Lat of the College of Human Ecology (CHE) said that there are actually two sides of the coin needed to be considered on the issue at hand. While the reopening of physical classes is ideal for students to come together and collaborate with their co-learners again, he emphasized that students might need to readjust their study habits since students have been learning online for the past two years.
Advantages of the F2F setup
Having a conducive environment for learning and access to academic spaces for collaborative activities are some of the reasons why some students think that physical classes are advantageous.
Human ecology student Jemielyn Ruth Lacap explained that the lack of spaces at home where students could peacefully work on their academic-related tasks and responsibilities remains to be a challenge. She also says that underprivileged students will benefit from the gradual shift to physical classes.
A manifestation of this concern was the recent request sent by the UPLB University Student Council to the Learning Resource Center of the university. The request was to open its Learning Hub in the Student Union Building 24 hours a day, from June 6 to June 17 to allow students near the campus to occupy said spaces and use its resources in completing their academic requirements. (READ: https://www.facebook.com/UPLB.USC/photos/a.629950277047926/5344418448934395/)
The request was immediately granted by the office. Students just had to register and present their student ID, vaccination card, and LB LAB ID upon entrance.
Disadvantages of the F2F Setup
Nevertheless, financial constraints remain to be the top concern and issue that students think will affect the capacity of many to join the reopening of classes in universities and colleges.
“Ngayon pa lang bumabangon ang negosyo ng pamilya ng ibang estudyante kung kaya’t maaaring mahirapan sila,” said Lat. “Masasabi kong mahihirapan ang mga nagtatrabaho o yung hindi mga fulltime student sapagkat sa aspetong pinansiyal, marami silang pagkakagastusan (internet, transportation, bahay, daily necessities, the like). Hindi lang iyan, hindi naman maiiwasan ang biglaang pagkakasakit,” he added.
Lat also expressed that some students might not be ready yet to join the reopening of classes no matter how willing they appear to be. He shared that no matter what setup will be used, learning is partly dependent on the learning style of students as well as their capacity to balance their responsibilities to their families, as a student, and as a member of social groups.
Other Perceived Changes in The Education Sector
Some students also raised other issues which they think would greatly affect the education sector in the coming years ahead. Dela Torre mentioned that her main concern is the possibility that new officials who would be assigned in the sector might push for changes that are self-serving and would only tighten their grip on power.
Meanwhile, Ocampo is worried that the sector’s budget might suffer depending on the administration’s priorities, sharing that she is also anticipating the possible revisionism in the history lessons taught in schools. Historical revisionism has been proliferating on social media in recent years. Distortion and denialism through targeted and organized mis/disinformation campaigns are purveyed by so-called “trolls” online.
Another issue raised by the youth and education sector is the possible comeback of the controversial mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, which was made optional in 2001 through the enactment of the Republic Act 6163 or the National Service Training Program Act of 2001. (READ: https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/11/26/1871897/why-rotc-no-longer-mandatory)
Definite actions or interventions that directly answer the call for the #LigtasNaBalikEskwela campaign are yet to be made. While gradual limited face-to-face classes are being initiated by colleges and universities, it remains to be a question as to when and how all students would be able to go back to the physical class setup while ensuring that no student is left behind.
For Lat, equal opportunity for all students to continue their studies is what he is hoping for in the coming semesters.
“Sa pagpapataas ng kalidad ng edukasyon, nawa ay hindi malabag ang pagkakapantay-pantay na pagtrato sa mga estudyante,” he said.
(In raising the quality of education, I hope that equal treatment among students will not be infringed.)
This story is a part of the 2022 Post-Election Series created and produced by LB Times.