“Lola, our school requires us a computer and internet for home-based learning,” begins Singapore-based Davaoeño artist Xiao Prieto’s poignant comic strip. Through their simple drawing, they are able to communicate the painful reality for most Filipino students from low-income families, who apart from struggling to live by as jobs are on hold, will have to figure out how to catch up on learning as classes move online.
The kid in the comic strip comes home to his grandmother in their shabby abode presumably after classes have been suspended due to coronavirus. The character’s grandmother can be seen on the second panel pleading a woman she does laundry for if there were any more clothes to wash to earn a little more in hopes of buying her grandson the computer he needs for school.
She even apologizes for the inquiry saying, “Sorry, ma’am but do you have any more laundry that I can do?”
This depiction is not far from reality. In 2018, the Philippine Statistics Authority estimated that 16.6 percent of the Philippine population is considered poor, meaning their per capita income is not sufficient to meet their basic food and non-food needs. That’s almost 18 million Filipinos. And it will likely get worse as the pandemic continues to hit the economy, affecting mostly informal and contractual workers.
We are also lagging behind in internet accessibility with merely half of the population bring able to use the internet and owning a computer with stable connection at home, an AGB Nielsen survey in 2011 reveals.
Both aspects prove that online learning as proposed by the Department of Education (DepEd) amid quarantine is not plausible for all Filipino learners.[READ: Public school enrollment to push through on Jun. 1, according to Roque]
Just last week, President Rodrigo Duterte contradicted the education department pronouncement that classes will open on Aug. 24 saying, “It’s useless to be talking about the opening of classes. Para sa akin, bakuna muna. ’Pag nandyan ang bakuna, okay na. Remember that,” he said. This was quickly clarified by Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque who said the President meant face-to-face classes.[READ: Duterte rejects Aug. 24 opening of classes, orders LGUs to allow entrance of OFWs]
DepEd officials, acknowledging this disparity in learners at home, said online classes will only be one of the many options. They are also readying flexible learning methods, which will include lessons via television, radio and printed materials delivered to students’ homes.
Other educational institutions and local government units, however, have been more proactive in ensuring that there is #NoStudentLeftBehind. Ateneo de Davao University, as early as April, launched a tablet lending program for its scholars to use for online classes. Meanwhile, Vico Sotto-led Pasig is also studying how to make virtual classes accessible to all students. In a Facebook post, Sotto assured his constituents that whatever happens, Pasig LGU will not let their students be left behind.[READ: Pasig City to prepare personal learning gadgets for students]
DepEd has also partnered with telecommunications companies to make sure their online learning portal DepEd Commons can be accessed on mobile phones without incurring data charges.[READ: ‘See you online, class’: Learning continues for Filipino pupils on alternative platforms]
The longer it takes for systemic and government-led initiatives that will ensure equal access to learning—offline or online—to come into effect, the harder it will be for Filipino students to get the right they are entitled to but are deprived of: education.
Header photo courtesy of Xiao Prieto/Xiaoness Facebook page
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