We have overcome the first examination, but the mental exhaustion still lingers, not only for students but also for teachers. Across the country, students and faculty are struggling with the online mode of instruction. Not all of us have stable internet, gadgets at hand or even households fit for conducive learning. The skyrocketing death rate among underprivileged students exposes the education system for what it is– inaccessible, ineffective, and above all, anti-poor.
Just last week, a 21-year-old female student from Iriga City, who experienced distress due to lack of resources, died by suicide. In August, a 21-year old male died by suicide due to the high cost of tuition fees, and a 19-year old grade 8 student in June for the same reason. While last May 16, Kristelyn Villance passed away in a motorcycle incident as she was on her way home from an internet shop to submit school requirements. Yet people are quick to dismiss these incidents as a lack of positivity or even seen as a cowardly act. This reveals that the nature of our education system only caters to the privileged while leaving behind those who are unable to meet its unrealistic demands, giving emphasis to the denial of our constitutional right to education. While those in power remain unhinged with these alarming cases, undermining the struggles that students faced with the enforced implementation of online learning amidst the pandemic.
The School of Arts and Sciences, as endorsed by the College Student Council and approved by the Dean, has implemented a whole week of mental health break after the hell week we have gone through. Seconded by the School of Engineering and Architecture with a two-day break from any activities and discussions. The #AcademicEaseNOW is a call for a more compassionate and flexible mode of learning that takes into account the situation of the students and teachers. It can manifest through conducive learning developments, leniency in finances, and promotion of learning inclusivity.
These coming days, the Holy Angel University Student Council will conduct a uni-wide survey to check everyone’s mental health status and to further provide information as to why mental health breaks are important in these trying times, among other implementations. The Duterte administration’s lack of concrete solutions, compassion, and sense of urgency are prevalent not only in the educational aspect but also in the overall response to the pandemic. We should also hold academic institutions accountable for perpetuating the State’s anti-democratic ways. As the incompetence of the Duterte administration worsens, The Angelite, the official student publication of Holy Angel University, will continue to demand accessible quality education and immediate mass testing for the safe resumption of classes. Alongside this, the call for #AcademicEase as we are forced to resort to a more exclusive and inaccessible mode of instruction. But as long as students are being left behind, the fight continues!