Challenges hound online opening of classes
MANILA, Philippines — Forty-five students logged in for online class on Monday, the first day of the school year, at Caloocan City Business High School, but by the end of the day, only 37 were left, according to Nimfa David, the school principal.
David suspected that the decrease in class size was related to poor internet connection as millions of students and parents struggled to familiarize themselves with the new learning platforms prompted by the new coronavirus pandemic.
“As teachers, we have to understand that these students [who logged out before the end of class] may have had poor internet connectivity. We cannot humiliate them or accuse them of cutting classes because this is the new normal classroom setting,” David told the Inquirer on Monday.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones declared victory over the COVID-19 pandemic as classes resumed in 61,923 public schools across the country, attended by 24.7 million learners and more than 800,000 teachers.
But educators like David continued to worry that some students might not catch up with their lessons due to problems still hounding distance and blended learning.
As of Monday, around 3 million students had yet to enroll despite assurance from the Department of Education (DepEd) that they would be accepted as late enrollees.
Even as teachers’ daily workload increased, David said they also had to shoulder expenses for mobile phone load and Wi-Fi connection. The DepEd has yet to distribute a long-promised connectivity allowance.
Last month, the department announced that it was accepting applications by public schoolteachers for their monthly allowance. But nothing has been set as to the amount they would receive.
At the school opening ceremony on Monday, Annalyn Sevilla, DepEd undersecretary for finance, explained that the department was not authorized to distribute the allowance since this was not part of its 2020 budget.
What school administrators can use, for now, are funds for maintenance and other operating expenses.
“Under the 2020 [DepEd budget], connectivity allowance is part of communication expenses. Our superintendents and school heads should be able to help our teachers cope up with our new needs,” Sevilla said.
Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan expressed “confiden[ce] that the resilience of the DepEd and partners at all levels will see us through.”
Yet he also cited other problems in online learning, such as modules that parents had yet to pick up in schools.
Briones insisted that the school opening was a testament to the education sector’s “victory” over COVID-19, which she called a “destroyer” of the economy.
“There is a new crisis every day, a new problem and new challenges. But will we wait until we are absolutely ready before allowing our children to resume learning? We cannot leave you behind,” she said.
In Marikina City, Grade 5 student Rhea’s excitement waned after her teacher went missing online, an hour after their half-day classes were scheduled to begin.
With no teacher facilitating the classes, Rhea’s mother, Marian, messaged the other parents who, together with their children, were also awaiting instructions.
Marian explained that some parents had endeavored to answer the modules for their children because “they had no other choice” but to follow the 11:45 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. daily schedule in order to submit accomplished activity sheets being collected by the schools weekly.
“The students will not learn anything … Now, we cannot say that their learning will be an advantage when they move on to the next grade level. It’s very different from actual classes,” Marian said.
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