Education is one of the staple needs of mankind. Now that the pandemic is standing in between “opening schools” or not: education is put hanging in the balance. As little children reach the early stage of learning, they are set for school as crucial part of their growth as an individual. As a matter of fact, being schooled and educated has become a vital aspect in pre-determining a person’s future self. And if schools don’t open because of this pandemic, does it mean learners should put sculpting their future visage to a halt? Or is there a way? Well, SCHOOL does not only refer to the edifice you eagerly go to for learning, thus there must be a way. We are living in the internet era where numerous transactions happen without having to meet the other person. Hence, education need not stop in the time of this COVID-19 pandemic. It only means we must do something to beat the odds while waiting for it to subside as experts toil to make that happen. We cannot just sit idly by and become spectators; perhaps, it is about time to put the internet era to the height of its usefulness.
Furthermore, distance education via online or e-learning is an option as a temporary mechanism while awaiting the conclusion of the pandemic. This is going to work as distance learning had proven successful when it first came in the 1840’s via snail mail which has become a foundation of courses on a more formal basis. Of course that piece of history refers to higher education considering the time and technology. Now that everything happens in just one click, ways and means could be forged even for little children; they are cyber natives, are they not? Nevertheless, online education is not new - This has been going on since the dawn of the internet era in the early 1900’s. However, if schools go online, this could be a problem to the learners in the remote areas of the Philippines where there is not even electricity. This must be something the government and the Department of Education should work hand in hand with because face-to-face education is not possible and should not be an option while the country is battling the virus. The department, on the other hand, launched “DepEd Commons” as an online platform to help students resume classes amid the community quarantine. This also hints the department’s intention of online learning as a contingency plan for school year 2020-2021. Surprisingly, the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s (DICT) Free Wi-Fi for All Program has been spearheading the upgrading and installation of free Wi-Fi services across the country for the purpose of aiding in the exchange of information during this crucial time; perhaps they could extend it for school purposes as well. For the issue of electricity, perchance the Department of Energy could make a solution for that.
Another option is to reschedule the opening of classes, but the question is when exactly. Do we really know for sure when the virus shall stop pestering our country and the rest of the world? Truth be told, there is never an assurance unless a cure and a vaccine is at hand; might as well be productive while we wait. Right now, there is still no cure let alone a vaccine amidst the numerous tests conducted by scientists. You see, a cure or a vaccine is not that easy to acquire; this is going to be a long battle. Creating a vaccine for this pandemic could take 12 to 18 months, if you think about it; it does eat up an entire school year or even the next. However, the race for vaccine development for COVID-19 is going on a tremendous pace globally as it is the only seen long term solution and an end to the pandemic as confirmed by Dr. Nina Gloriani, a former head of Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines. On the other hand, teachers especially in private schools cannot remain jobless until the end of the pandemic just because Congressman Dong Gonzales Jr., representative of Pampangga’s third district, thought that there shall be no classes until a vaccine is discovered and that distance learning via the internet is not possible in the provinces where telecommunication signals are weak - perhaps it’s about time to strengthen that signal. Well, the government must push the telecommunication companies to deal with the matter. Another thing, if classes won’t reopen even online would the government continually give compensations to public school teachers until the vaccine is procured? Whatever the answer to that only one thing is for sure learners cannot afford to delay one year or two for the completion of their scholastic endeavors. We cannot yield to this pandemic by doing nothing. It becomes futile to go sit while waiting when we know that something could be done as productively while we wait.
Since there is still no cure nor vaccine for this pandemic, the best solution we have for the moment is social distancing, wearing masks and other protective gears, contact tracing, constant hand washing, disinfection and staying at home. This could also mean more screen time for children and adults alike: watching TV, playing online games, online streaming, and social media. This has become the new normal since the gates and the borders have been closed; people need to compensate their need to connect with other family members, friends, colleagues and to the rest of the world in general or else people could only think that they are in prison and worse may become victims to depression. The internet has become a diversion to the stress this pandemic has brought about. Hence, this could also be a good tool for education since the world of the internet has become a fortress in this “World War C” – term used by Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire to refer to the pandemic - thus making screen time worthwhile and productive. Jeffrey Renard, director of the Vermont Virtual Learning Cooperative suggested that to promote the best use for technology in learning: children should continue getting up at their normal-school day time; dress for school which means no pajamas allowed; and have a designated place for school activities at home. For very young school-aged children, it must be very well explained to parents the moderation of screen time and if possible, children should not be encouraged to work about anything related to school on screen during night as it may affect sleeping habits.
Schools shall continue administering education amidst this COVID-19 pandemic via e-learning; issues regarding internet connection shall be a concern the government must address with urgency. Rescheduling the opening of the school year may not work as the pandemic is not generous enough to lend us its itinerary. No one knows when it shall cease to plaque the planet unless a cure and a vaccine are forged. The only connection we have to the rest of the world is the internet, thus this can become a connection schools could use to connect to their learners. Whether we like it or not, learners are and will spend so much screen time, hence school activities could put a direction to their browsing habits. This pandemic shall not put on hold the education of the youth who shall inherit the earth. For now, this is the new normal.
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