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Zoom Meeting Agenda:
Suspend Online Classes

Words By Kiana Salapare
Art by Krischelle Cadao

Education is not a privilege, it’s a right.

As students, it’s our right to have access to quality education wherever we are. Yet, it’s also important to recognize the differences in every student’s situation.

I recently read a popular poem that’s been circulating around the internet. It explains how, although we’re all experiencing the same storm, we’re not all in the same boat. In the same way that one person’s boat may be shipwrecked while others’ may be floating perfectly fine, we are all facing vastly different realities.

Even before the spread of the virus, education has been an inaccessible right for millions of children. Now at the crux of a global pandemic, most schools have adopted online classes. As a result, it has become an unspoken requirement for all students to have access to the internet, necessary technology, and a conducive learning environment at home.

Although virtual learning has been practiced since 1999, we have to acknowledge that not everyone has the means to effectively learn online. With the sudden shift to online classes, education has become more out of reach for many students, especially in developing countries.

Points to Consider for Online Learning
Not all students have internet connection in their homes. In 2019, only 57% of the entire world’s population had access to the internet. In this regard, a complete shift to online classes would only widen the world’s digital divide. If online learning continues, some students would be forced to expend more resources for mobile data. For students from low-income backgrounds, this would only add on to their family’s expenses and struggles to meet financial needs.

Not all students own the necessary technology. The required gadgets for online learning goes far beyond a smartphone. In fact, this may as well be the bare minimum. Computers are an unspoken requirement because students are often tasked to produce lengthy essays or submit videos that require proper editing softwares. Additionally, online classes are conducted through video conferencing where a decent webcam and audio output device is essential.

Not all students have a healthy working environment at home. School can often be an escape for the youth who deal with toxic home environments. Without a safe place to work, some students may find it difficult to learn effectively. This may contribute to the student’s mental health which can be affected through a withdrawal from social interactions with friends. Without regular support from peers, some students may also struggle to develop positive coping mechanisms.

Not all students learn effectively through online classes. Many students struggle with learning solely through a screen. Some subjects require the help of a professor, while some are simply best taught through hands-on learning. In this regard, not everyone has the same learning style. Some students may thrive with the structure of an online program, while others may have difficulty processing lessons without a teacher’s guidance.

Online Learning from Global Perspectives

Zuzanna Witek from Poland said:
“Online learning may be the future, but not with long hours, not with people who are still learning to use online tools, and most certainly not with seven hours of work a day … My favourite lesson was when we got to step away from our computers and make something from paper. Real connections. Staying 'digitally connected' sounds professional and possibly like a good piece of advice and don't get me wrong, it may work for some of us. As far as I am concerned, a call will never replace a lesson inside the classroom, and I am even starting to miss using chalk and a blackboard."

Sofia von Wachter from France said:
“As valuable as working from home can be, online learning is not something I would see as a long-term solution. I think the future of education should be more oriented towards a personal and active teaching method than to an individual one behind [the] screens. I also feel like the social part of school is a truly important part of the learning process. It sets up social and community values that can easily be forgotten at home.”

Kirsten Atuhaire from Uganda said:
“When I was introduced to online learning, I did not have expectations as to how it would work … It wasn’t that bad, until at some point, assignments and deadlines were getting out of hand. I thought to myself, “This is more homework than we usually get compared to the pre-COVID times!” So, I had to persist and work faster to be more prompt.”

Nada Bennani from Morocco said:
Online classes came with difficulties and efforts. At the beginning, my sleep was completely disturbed. The new changes stressed and disoriented me. I learned a new way of working, and I lived an amazing experience with difficulties, of course, but it gave me so much autonomy and [it] made me grow. Personally, I think online learning could be the future if we elaborate more the programs and concentrate on each student. Some can have more difficulties than others and need more attention and time to accustom themselves.”

With the following testimonies on digital learning, it’s clear that the new format isn’t for everyone. Students have found it difficult to adapt to online classes and the different problems that arise with it, depending on the school and country they’re part of.

Clear Lens on Philippine Online Learning
In the Philippines, I argue that online classes manifest the difference between economic backgrounds, as this mode of education is exclusive for those who have the resources at their disposal. However, education shouldn’t only be for the privileged.

Schools should announce an “academic freeze” until it’s safe for everyone to have on-site classes again. We shouldn’t continue online learning for the sake of “proving our resilience in the face of adversity”. Resiliency can only do some good, but it’s only an excuse to implement solutions that can be beneficial for some. Until a vaccine or a concrete plan of action is created to defeat the virus, the educational sector should instead help focus on fighting the pandemic.

In reference to the aforementioned poem, we must shed light on the fact that we’re not all in the same boat. It's up to us to stand with those who are shipwrecked to face the storm that’s ahead of us. We must not leave anyone behind as education has long been recognized as the primary solution to combating the cycle of poverty. Forcing online classes onto a country that is not prepared for it would also risk taking away educational opportunities from underprivileged students.

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented solutions. Especially in times like these, we have to stress the importance of leaving no student behind.

Help the students in the Philippines by signing these petitions to cancel online classes:

CANCEL THE ACADEMIC YEAR 2020-2021

#SuspendOnlineClassesNOW

JULY 1, 2020