Students on Twitter have brought up whether the upcoming school semester is appropriate for students’ mental health and wellbeing
On Aug. 14, after Education Sec. Leonor Briones announced that the opening of schools would be moved to Oct. 5, the hashtag #AcademicFreeze trended on Twitter.
This week, the more urgent sounding hashtag #AcademicFreezeNOW, was trending on the social media platform. Filipino students are calling on the Department of Education (DepEd) to listen to their pleas. Many have brought up the fact that students may be dealing with mental health issues during this pandemic, further exacerbated by the difficulties posed in online or modular learning.
On mental health
Chennie Andres shares on Twitter that her nine-year-old sister and her sister’s elementary school classmates have been crying because of their online classes.
“Too young for an academic breakdown,” Chennie writes.
“I noticed sobrang laki ng data consumption ko kaya I don’t think I can afford to continue,” says Chennie, an incoming third-year college student. “Sa case ko, medyo kinakaya ko pa (In my case, I can still cope), but it’s really heartbreaking to see my younger sister having to face the same problems.”
Chennie tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle that she has tried to help guide her younger sister but there are always connectivity issues, either on their end or on the teacher’s end.
“Can we skip class if we’re having a mental health breakdown?” Kloe Canlas, a ninth-grade student from Bulacan tweets. “Of course, no.”
As of writing, her post has been retweeted over 3,400 times, and liked over 10,000 times.
“My tweet is for all the students who can’t speak up, for those who don’t have privilege like others,” Kloe shares with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “Sabi nga nila, naiintindihan mo lang ang tao kapag nangyari na sa ’yo ito (They say you only understand a person when it happens to you). I am a student and I know what they’re going through.”
She is referring to the many students around the country who have poor access to stable Internet connections, those who have to focus on supporting their families through financial hardships, and even the young people who are struggling with anxiety or mental health issues that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. These are all circumstances that can affect a student’s ability to do well this coming online or modular semester.
To paraphrase an old novel, all privileged students are alike, while all underprivileged students are underprivileged in their own way. Particularly during this pandemic, when inequalities are deepened and divides enhanced.
Kloe stresses that the #AcademicFreezeNOW hashtag is not used because of laziness and that, in fact, many students are hoping to continue their education. Just not through the current mechanisms in place.
“An academic freeze is the most effective solution for now,” she continues. “But I hope mass testing ang gawin para ligtas na ang balik eskwela. Kasama sa ating karapatan ang makapag-aral, mahirap ka man or mayaman. (But I hope mass testing will be done so we can go back to school. Education is our right, whether you are rich or poor).”
On continuing with the school year
In a previous article on the #AcademicFreeze hashtag, Manila Bulletin Lifestyle discussed the posts of students who felt that an academic freeze would not take into account the livelihood of others.
“Paano na rin yung mga batang gustong mag-aral? Dahil sa sistema nating pahirap, kailangan nilang makapag tapos agad ng pag-aaral para makapagtrabaho na at kumita ng pera. Paano na sila? (What about the students who want to study? Because of how difficult our system is, some of them need to graduate immediately so they can get a job and earn money. What about them?),” a freshman at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) posts on Twitter.
Arguably, however, the calls are all one and the same: the youth asking for government action so that their education, and their future, is not compromised.
“Ang marapat na ipaglaban di natin ititigil ang pag-aaral bagkus ay mananawagan sa [gobyerno] na umaksyon para makapagdaos na tayong pisikal na pagbabalik-eskwela. Bagamat mayroon din itong mga kahinaan, [face-to-face] pa rin ang pinaka angkop na paraan ng pagtuturo (What we should fight for is not to stop studying but to call on government for action so that we can hold physical school. Although it has its flaws, face-to-face is still in the best form of instruction).”
If you or someone you know needs help, the Philippine Mental Health Association (PMHA) has established a virtual mental health support facility. Email [email protected] or call +63 9175652036. The National Center for Mental Health also has 24/7 crisis hotline responders who can provide psychological first aid for those in distress, just contact +63 9178998727.