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Kris-Crossing Mindanao

Overcoming the pandemic (2)

/ 04:05 AM September 20, 2021

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — Last week I described how local fishing communities in Barangay Tinoto, Maasim in Sarangani province, cope with health challenges in the time of the pandemic.

My friends from this community may have overcome the pandemic, but they have not been able to address the problems related to their children’s education.

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In response to the health protocols and other requirements to avoid more COVID-19 contaminations, the Department of Education has implemented online learning platforms and blended learning modalities. In the online platform, children need to have access to the internet, an Android mobile phone or a laptop computer where they are given access to web-based learning materials or lessons taught through online coaching by their respective teachers. In the blended learning option, students learn through reading printed modules that are distributed to them at the beginning of the week. They can also access asynchronously some video learning materials from their television sets. Under this option, the students’ parents or immediate relatives are expected to facilitate the children’s learning.

Unfortunately, many communities are unable to comply with the various requirements in all these options. For the online platforms, impoverished communities like the fishing villages in Tinoto do not have the luxury of internet connection in their respective homes, nor do they have “touch screen” tablets or Android phones to access the materials online.

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If and when they are able to scrape off some amount to buy the cheapest available Android phone in the local market here, they will still have a problem in connectivity because mobile data alone is insufficient to download huge files of learning materials and connections can be unstable for low-priced mobile data access.

In the blended option, the problem lies in the engagement of parents, especially the mothers, to become the default learning facilitators for their children.

In many parts of Mindanao, many women are poorly educated, and they cannot read or write in English. Where the mother or female relatives can read and write, another problem surfaces. Because of the familiar relationship between mother and child, children tend to slack off and tell their mothers they are not in the mood to take their lessons for the day. Children’s assignments end up being done by the mothers since their children claim to be too tired to learn. “Our children will end up not learning anything substantial at all during this period,” said my fish vendor friend. He worries his children might end up being “mangmang” (ignorant or illiterate) after the pandemic is over, if face-to-face classes do not resume.

In a Senate hearing just a few days before schools opened last Sept. 13, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua talked about the huge problem in productivity that current students will face once they enter the labor force years from now. Chua projected that the lack of face-to-face classes for one year will result in a loss of P11 trillion in productivity in the next 40 years. He added that the lack of face-to-face classes will limit the learning ability of students, causing a permanent effect on the student once he is part of the labor force. Chua said the government already has the data to support such projections.

Sadly, the present leadership has not been keen on addressing the learning crisis. Instead, it has caused more crises after it prioritized discussions on next year’s elections and on making ad hominem arguments after the disclosure of audited reports on overpriced health supplies. President Duterte spends more time waging a word war against his critics rather than addressing head on the crises people are facing due to the pandemic.

This kind of leadership should not be allowed to be in power again—if we want our children to become more productive in the next four decades.

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TAGS: Kris-Crossing Mindanao, overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic, Rufa Cagoco-Guiam
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