Why push for classes when pandemic affects students’ mental health? – CEGP to DepEd, CHEd
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MANILA, Philippines — The College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) is asking education authorities why they insist on reopening schools despite the COVID-19 pandemic taking a toll on students’ mental health.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the group said its members were wondering why both the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) continued to push for opening classes when the propsect had led some students — who could not cope with emotional stress due to the health crisis — to harm themselves.
According to CEGP, it has received reports that a 21-year-old male student committed suicide as the pandemic drove his family deeper into poverty. So he could not afford the gadgets that would be required for distance learning.
“Another life has fallen victim to the byproduct of the government’s misplaced priorities in its response, or lack thereof, to address the COVID-19 outbreak and exploitative and unconstitutional education system,” the CEGP said. “But this is not the first case of a student dying by suicide.”
“This pandemic has put a toll on everyone’s mental health and yet those in authority still chose to push the resumption of classes, revealing the elitist and capitalist approach to an otherwise poverty-riddled country,” the group added.
Since the pandemic forced the national government to put the entire Luzon and other areas under lockdown, a lot of people have lost jobs — including people who rely on daily earnings and those who cannot adjust to a work-from-home setup.
According to the latest numbers from a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, the unemployment rate had risen to 45.5 percent — a record high number, as the country still has parts under lockdown due to the continued rise of coronavirus infections.
This means that not all families can afford to send their children to school, much less have the ability to buy sophisticated gadgets and a stable internet connection.
Recently, Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, and Laguna were all placed under a modified enhanced community quarantine due to rising COVID-19 cases for two weeks. It would be lifted on Wednesday, but it also left people without jobs.
Meanwhile, distance learning for primary and secondary public schools is still a go, albeit their opening date has been moved from the initial Aug. 24 to Oct. 5. Still, private and Catholic schools can open at an earlier date, DepEd says.
But the CEGP urges both DepEd and CHEd to show more compassion amid the pandemic.
“Digital learning is counterproductive and anti-poor. Not only that the Philippine education system favors those who are privileged enough to afford it; it also caters to the colonialized and commercialized system that predates the pandemic which, by extension, denies millions of students their constitutional right to education,” the CEGP noted.
“Even students who are able to enroll do not necessarily mean they have a healthy learning atmosphere as many only seem to comply and submit academic requirements to beat deadlines […] There are also numerous students who are susceptible to abusive households, making it more likely to be unsafe for most of them to stay at home,” the group added, referring to warnings of increased domestic violence under quarantine restrictions.
Reports of self-harm during the pandemic is not new. In Cebu, a COVID-19 positive patient was reported to have committed suicide.
Meanwhile, observers are saying that the uncertainty that the pandemic has led people to suffer anxiety and mental fatigue — conditions that should be addressed by medical professionals.
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