I planned to end the school year right until COVID-19 happened

Art by Jeanne Hernandez

Everything was all over the place.

That’s one way to describe how I tried to do things for the past four and a half years in college. I am not the kind of student who writes every deadline, meeting and quiz on sticky notes to remind myself of the academic requirements that I should be worried about. I only schedule and plan for the things of my interests: sports games, vacations, and other leisures which I enjoy. 

Though this year, in my last semester, I made an effort to do things differently and to take academics a little more seriously because I thought this would be a big year for me and my family. And so, I bought a planner for the first time.  

I was supposed to graduate this June. My mother, who has been working for the past 19 years, already decided that she would come back home this year to attend my graduation rites. I was also supposed to be taking my licensure exam and I figured that this will finally be the time I get to pay back my parents for all their hard work. These are some of the things I noted alongside several ideas that I wished to accomplish this year.

“Not recognizing the challenges of this current learning setup is simply a neglect to the school’s virtue of inclusivity with some students being left behind.”

But all of these were put in limbo when the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm and we were left to proceed with the semester through online mediums.  Classes were held in video conferences and virtual classrooms while the learning materials were simply uploaded for us to study.  

At first, I appreciated the efforts of the institution, especially my professors who still continued teaching despite difficulties with this kind of setup. I felt like with the platform, I can still accomplish what was written in my planner with enough eagerness to submit what is asked of me. Everything can be doable.

However, after a few days of adapting to this new set-up, I found out in our group chat that some of my classmates could not attend the class because of poor internet connections. Some of them even attempted to go out to secure prepaid loads in order to cope up and the same thing had been the case while we were working on our thesis. One of my group mates was not able to join consultations with our adviser for the same reason. 

From this point on, I realized that I became selfish not to think of the restrictions posed by this enhanced community quarantine. I have been too preoccupied with marking some checks on my bucket list using this online platform that I failed to see how being motivated and responsible students won’t work for all of us in this situation. 

My classmates and group mates are just like me—students who want to finish college and pass the board exams with hopes to repay those who count on us—the only difference is that I have four more signal bars in my phone than they have. Not recognizing the challenges of this current learning setup is simply a neglect to the school’s virtue of inclusivity with some students being left behind. Over the weeks, this feeling grew on me and so I stopped writing in my planner. 

“To think of our home as an ideal setting for online learning is also a huge misconception especially in instances where a student is ushered to take on larger responsibilities at home.” 

With the current anxiety each one of us is facing, going out to look for a way to merely mark our attendance on online classes should not be the students’ option. To think of our home as an ideal setting for online learning is also a huge misconception especially in instances where a student is ushered to take on larger responsibilities at home. Imagine being expected to take care of your younger siblings and do household chores while stuck on your computers trying to accomplish school requirements–this is what one of my classmates go through everyday. There are other households who are experiencing worse—those who are struggling with making ends meet on the dining table, those who have sick and elderly family members to attend to, those who have family members directly affected by the virus—whether they be patients or frontliners.  In these trying times, students would prioritize fulfilling their duties as sons and daughters first before being self-driven and liable students focused on finishing their chosen programs. 

Apparently, student opinions against this implemented system are being overlooked, viewed as their way to dodge requirements and self learning–but this is not always the case. Instead of learning, this alternative turned out to be a mere compliance as our expectation of quality education was watered down by migrating process-driven activities like laboratory experiments into a submission-based machine, which I think is the least of my professors’ interests as well. Some of them who have prepared their lessons to be taught inside the classroom were also having a hard time teaching and delivering topics through the digital medium.

In many instances, people forget that these professors have families too. Some of them even carry the burden of being the head of their own household, yet they have to keep on teaching us using all the means they have because of orders which they were assumed to follow instead of prioritizing their own safety and well-being. Despite being observed for years now, the readiness of both the teachers and students to online learning was still a little underwhelming. 

“Despite being observed for years now, the readiness of both the teachers and students to online learning was still a little underwhelming.” 

It is not like I want us to be spoonfed and be taught in classrooms. Of course, I recognize how adaptive the given platform is for us but this is not solely what the students need. I am not hoping for the professors to directly give us passing marks on our subjects; rather, I am hoping that the administration sees how inefficient the migration to online learning is so that they can devise a solution without compromising the time and effort given by the students and the professors. 

Although there is an immense amount of pressure to finish my studies, I still want to accomplish a quality learning experience even if it takes a longer time. This is for me to claim that I am equipped with the proper skill set the moment I step out of this institution to work on my goals of being an engineer and the likes. 

“One of the finish lines I aimed is still blurry and I wonder, “Will I be able to finish the race?” “Will there be confettis waiting for me?” 

At the onset of this year, I only thought that this would be big for me but what I overlooked is that this is a big year for all of us. My mother will not be coming over for my graduation due to the threat of the virus. The concept of graduation itself is still floating. One of the finish lines I aimed is still blurry and I wonder, “Will I be able to finish the race?” “Will there be confettis waiting for me?” I really don’t know the answer to that, perhaps I’ll still finish, but not the way I wanted to. The only thing certain to me is that I do not want to cross that line alone when others are to be left behind for reasons which are not their fault. 

I think that’s another thing to note in my planner.

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