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covid virus

C O V I D  P a n d e m i c

Our world and our lives have been forever altered by the COVID-19 plague.  As  nations struggle to contain its spread, each one of us is left to confront and adjust to our ever changing reality set by guidelines, rules and mandates.  Our experiences have tested our resilience and patience. Yet, we still have this unwavering hope that a better and brighter future lies ahead, the light less dim than in the year 2020 when it all first began.

We are grateful to those who have shared their stories. 

E D U C A T I O N   A N D   T H E   P A N D E M I C

Its Effect on a Generation of Schoolchildren

The global SARS-Covid 19 pandemic has been the major disruptor of our everyday lives since the spring of 2020. Among the sectors most affected is the education of school-age children and young adults.  The impact on the economy will be felt for decades as a great number of this generation enter the workforce less prepared and with less marketable skills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jun Escutin is executive director of Dao Education Foundation. This essay was wriitten in the fall of 2022. 

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Teacher remote

Teachers have a well-deserved reputation for their dedication, patience, self-sacrifice and devotion to their students. Unfortunately, some of the best and the brightest in the country had been lured with higher salaries by American and foreign recruiters to fill in vacancies in their inner cities, in special education and in math and science. With a drastic change in the teaching environment, local teachers have struggled to prepare and conduct classes online. Even after undergoing extensive training, many remain uneasy and frustrated with the learning curve. Used to blackboards and other classroom audiovisual aids, senior teachers admit to being the most tech challenged. Many of their students don’t show up or are not able to attend online classes. Children have a notoriously short attention span and educators know that face-to-face teaching engages schoolchildren better than remote learning.  The classroom offers pupils a quiet and comfortable place to learn, free from distractions at home.  A hybrid model of combining both digital learning with take home teaching modules have been implemented requiring teamwork between parents and teachers. Monitoring progress of students has been done through group chats. However, the quality of education has suffered. Students are less motivated to study or don’t study at all. Dropout rates have gone up. Social skills are diminished or lost. 

Aware of the importance of classroom learning, the Department of Education had issued a directive to start the in-person schoolyear on August 22, 2022. Those schools that are not able to open classes are allowed a transition period of blended online and face-to-face learning until November 2. Chronic problems persist such as overcrowding due to the lack of classrooms requiring up to 3 class shifts a day. More schools need to be built. Teaching methods also need to be upgraded. Increasing the budget allocated to education by the national government should be a priority to address these pervasive deficits.

Distance learning have shown barriers across the board, challenging students, parents, teachers, administrators and the government. The poor have been the most affected by the lack of resources. While tablets have reached many, the distribution have been uneven in less well-off districts. Most of these families can’t even afford a cellphone for online classes. Even for those with a mobile gadget, the WiFi signal is oftentimes weak and electricity brownouts are not uncommon. Compared to other countries, the Philippines lags behind in internet connectivity and availability. Internet access is an added expense that can strain the family’s finances where putting food on the table competes with their child’s learning. Many just give up on their hopes and dreams of a better life. They join legions of the uneducated and the less educated destined to lead a hard life along the margins of society.

The pandemic forced the lockdown of schools in March 2020. The longer the closure, the more harm there is to learning. Globally, schoolchildren are about 8 months behind on average. In lower and middle income countries, where school shutdowns were longer, pupils learned little or nothing.  The young of primary school age fared worse than the older ones in reading and math. These basic skills are needed to advance in life and earn a good living. Unsurprisingly, children in third world countries did less well than affluent nations like the United States. A 2021 study by the World Bank estimated that up to 91% of children in the Philippines were not able to read and understand a simple story by age 10. This is defined as learning poverty.

With the Omicron variant spreading across the country, parents and grandparents living in multigenerational households worry of children bringing home the virus. With only 63.4% of the target population fully vaccinated as of mid August, there is a real concern that new outbreaks may be hard to contain and overburden the country's already fragile healthcare infrastructure.

Can the pandemic's generation of schoolchildren be properly educated and catch up? We all do hope so. The nation's future is at stake.

Healthcare workers in PPE

This Pandemic is Personal

by Dr. John Lo

On this most unique Thanksgiving that we’ve ever had, Marichi and I have the opportunity to take a moment to reflect and count our blessings.

 

Throughout this pandemic, prior to our trip to Manila, I have been on the “provider“ end: treating COVID-19 patients at the hospital, and spreading good cheer and comforting words to affected family and friends. But none of these prior experiences directly affected or impacted us or our immediate family.

 

Upon our arrival in Manila on November 17, we had to undergo COVID-19 swab test at the airport, as mandated by Philippine law. And then we had to be whisked by special shuttle to an accredited hotel to hold us while awaiting results. As it turned out, Marichi tested positive. And though I tested negative, I was considered a “person of interest”. She then had to be brought to another hotel accredited to house positive cases for quarantining. While I was allowed to stay at my hotel for a 14 day quarantine or sooner if retested to be negative. I’m awaiting arrangements for my retest.

 

She has arranged for a repeat test that got done on November 24 where the RT-PCR was negative and the IgM/IgG ECLIA was negative. She was free to go home without further quarantine. We have both been asymptomatic.

 

The offshoot to this whole thing, however, is that the 2 weddings that we came to attend - nephew Kenneth’s wedding on December 1 and Papa’s and Mama’s 60th wedding anniversary on December 3 - had to be postponed to allow for our attendance. They were planned to be small family gatherings. Marichi will extend her stay. But I will be unable to do so, and have to fly back to the US, and not achieve my purpose of travel.

 

I am sorry for missing these two milestones.

 

Having directly experienced quarantine, I now know first-hand the physical and emotional toll that it can take, even if mitigated by modern technology (TV, internet, video call, online medical conference.etc. ). I can only imagine the worse toll on those that actually got sick and the toll on their families. Not to mention the economic devastation that this pandemic has wrought on many.

 

Marichi and I feel fortunate. For it could have been worse. We’ve been symptom-free. We’ve had the love and understanding of our families. We’ve had the well wishes of family and friends. We’ve had assistance from friends. And we have experienced the dedication and professionalism of the airport personnel, the hotel personnel and the Philippine Bureau of Quarantine. We feel that they wanted to do things right by us and the general public. We are proud of them.

 

Our travail will come to pass. And it looks like this scourge will eventually be vanquished. We look forward to the future with renewed hope and vigor. We would like to renew our commitment and redouble our efforts to live a life of purpose.

 

Happy Special Thanksgiving to you all!!!

John is a physician in Rancho Mirage, California. This essay was written in 2020.

Thoughts, Challenges and Lessons Learned: Students' Perspective 

This pandemic was unexpected. It caused a lot of struggles and lost opportunities, closing doors to many around the world.

 

Personally, it resulted in a lot of challenges and adjustments in my life. I struggled in adapting to this new form of learning that is way different than what it used to be. There were no professors beside us to explain and lecture. There were no friends and classmates to talk to during vacant times. It was purely a virtual interaction that made me feel uneasy and worried.

 

Days passed by like a blur. The world was bombarded by news about the pandemic getting worse. I was so anxious. What about my studies? What about our safety? What about our everyday living?

 

I believed in God and I prayed.

 

As time passed, I was able to grasp  the 'new normal' way of learning. With the help and guidance of our professors, I was able to handle this new way of educating easier than I thought. I was able to adapt to it. There are still times and moments where I feel like giving up. But I persevered and continued on with my journey.

 

At the end of the day, it's my family and dreams that keeps me going. I am grateful to my teachers for guiding me and my fellow students. I am also grateful to my family for cheering me up and supporting me from the very start up to now and  my friends who never fail to comfort me.

 

This new fresh approach to learning is a response to the situation we are currently facing. It may be hard from the start. However, don't lose hope. Everything will be okay. Everything will pay off. It may be new for everybody, but it is one step closer in reaching  our dreams. I'm rooting for everyone!.

Kristine Claro is a Bachelor of Secondary Education English major student.

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The pandemic has brought many challenges and adversities in our lives. As a student it limits our capacity to go to school and have a normal life. Personally, it gave me challenges because it really affected my parents resulting in me having to transfer to another school. It was very challenging because I have to cope with all the back subjects. I have to  adapt in a new environment without any acquaintance or friend to help me out. 

Living in this new set up is really hard. Everyone seems situated between life and death.  The wrong choices we make affects the whole community. We are chained and are prisoners of an invisible cell unaware when and where the virus will attack. We can't even attend church because of the fear the virus is circulating through everything. This unseen battle is really hard and frustrating. Everyone is affected especially those who put themselves in the front lines of this pandemic.

I have learned that even if we are in this great disaster we must not give up. We should stay with our family and support one another. At the end of the day, our family is our best supporter and cheerleader.  Whatever comes, we will still be standing and fighting. We are warriors of this generation. All we have to do is to shed the light of the Almighty God and believe in his greatness that soon this darkness will diminish. Always choose to fight even in the hardest part of life. We must survive and never surrender to this adversity. We are  nearing success in this battle. All we just have to do is to prove to the old and young that we are their hope and sunshine. 

John Adolfo is a Bachelor of Secondary Education student.

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