Left behind again and again. This is how students from the marginalized sector feel when classes for School Year (SY) 2020-2021 open Oct. 5 in all public schools nationwide.
In a multi-stakeholders online press conference on the opening of classes conducted by E-Net Philippines Wednesday, students from poor, disadvantaged, and marginalized sectors shared their concerns when it comes to education this year especially as the system shifted into distance learning.
Riza Tahuyan, 15, from the Manobo tribes of North Cotabato, was able to enroll as a Grade 11 student this year with the help of her parents and teachers. Despite this, she is concerned on the challenges that she will face this school year since there will be no face-to-face classes.
As directed by DepEd, schools will be learning inside their homes through various learning modalities such as modules, online, and TV or radio-based instruction. However, Tahuyan said that for indigenous learners like her, these new methods of learning delivery will be very challenging.
“Natatakot kami na mapag-iwanan kasi ang lalayo ng aming communities sa school, at sobrang mahihirapan ang teacher na madala o makuha ng aming magulang 'yung mga learning modules (We’re afraid that we will be left behind because our communities are very far from the schools and our teachers and parents will have a hard time delivering or fetching the learning modules),” Tahuyan said.
Grade 7 student and Muslim Jannessah Odin from Pikit, Cotabato in Mindanao also shared the same concerns. Most Muslim learners, she said, cannot afford the technology and have no access to Internet. Thus, she asked the government for “more funding for Madrasah education programs in order to create opportunities for more Muslim learners to access education.”
The new school year is also very difficult for poor students like Donnie Dela Cruz. At 21, he is supposed to be a graduating student this year but was forced to drop out of college.
With online learning as a means of education continuity at the higher education level, Dela Cruz had no choice but to discontinue his studies. “Katulad ng marami, nakakaranas kami ng gutom at sobrang malungkot po ako kasi hindi ako makakasabay sa eskwela pero kasi wala akong pambili ng phone o gadget sa online classes (Like many, we experience hunger and I am so sad that I would be left behind in school because I don't have money to buy a gadget or phone for online classes),” he added.
Corazon Siya, a community leader and Alternative Learning System (ALS) community facilitator from the Kalipunan ng mga Sektor sa Caloocan (KASECA), also shared the concerns of the out-of-school youth. Those under the informal learning system, she said, are expected to be “left further behind” when it comes to education amid the pandemic since they are not prioritized by the government.
Given all these concerns, E-Net Philippines, a network of 130 organizations and partners, called on the government and the Department of Education (DepEd) to address the needs of the poor and disadvantaged sectors for a safe, inclusive, and quality education in the new normal.
“We strongly believe that our learners’ right to education must continue and should not be compromised, under any circumstances,” E-Net President Prof. Flora Arellano said.