While taking a leave of absence from school may seem like a joke for some, it became a necessary decision for others to recover what they lost in their situation.
For a country fixated with the idea of graduating on time, constant stress takes its toll, as social media hashtags like #AcademicFreezeNOW and #LigtasNaBalikEskwela continue to fall on deaf ears.
However, a student’s well-being shouldn’t be the price to pay to get an education, let alone a counterproductive education affected by a pandemic. Sadly, students stuck in a disadvantaged situation have no choice but to take a leave of absence.
The brutal reality of online classes
Even if the COVID-19 pandemic brought technology to the forefront of education, online learning has struggled under the weight of expectations and has fallen short of its enormous potential.
Eldrick Angelo Nolasco, a Communication Arts student in Colegio de San Juan de Letran, decided to take a break from his studies while still in quarantine.
“It was a tough decision because I really want to graduate on time, but virtual classes aren’t really working for me,” said Eldrick.
Eldrick revealed that studying in the traditional classroom setup is much better than online classes as there are many distractions while learning at home. Being an ‘at-home student’ merges with his other personal responsibilities, making it impossible to focus on one thing.
Eldrick knows there will be a big adjustment when he enters school again, but he is still hoping for better days ahead.
22-year-old Kyle Miranda, a Physical Therapy student of San Juan De Dios Educational Foundation Inc., College, has also filed a leave of absence because of the current education setup.
Kyle said, “Wala akong maintindihan, lalo na sa’ming BS PT…[na] more on practical and knowledge basis…para sa’kin naman, mas masasayang [ang] oras kapag grumaduate ako nang walang alam. Mas delikado ‘yon, lalo na medical [field].”
(“I could not understand anything, especially for us in BS PT…which is more on a practical and knowledge basis…for me, [the] time is more wasted if I graduate without learning anything. It’s more dangerous, especially in the medical [field].”)
The transition from traditional face-to-face teaching methods to online teaching seems problematic for students in medical courses. According to Kyle, online medical education may not be equitable in terms of the quality of teaching as there are issues in lack of in-person interaction.
He added, “Kapag medical [field], mahirap mag-aral mag-isa, so mas gusto ko [na] kasama ko physically mga mag-aaral sa school.”
(“When it comes to medical [field], it’s hard to study alone, so I prefer [to] be with students at school physically.”)
The alarming threat of COVID-19
Ivy, a 22-year-old student of Philippine Normal University, struggled with balancing her education and her family’s well-being.
“Nagka-COVID [ang] father ko. Na-confine siya, two weeks siyang nasa hospital kasi severe yung COVID ni Papa…so, walang income. Nagkaproblema rin [kami] financially. Ako, hindi ko kaya makita yung pamilya ko na gano’n. Nakakapag-aral nga ako pero nagsa-struggle naman kaya naghanap ako ng trabaho,” said Ivy.
(“My father had COVID. He was confined, he was in the hospital for two weeks because my father’s COVID was severe…so there was no income. We also had a financial problem. I couldn’t bear to see my family like that. I was studying yet I was struggling, so I looked for a job.”)
Ivy explained that filing a leave of absence from school is the best option she has.
“Kung hindi sila naaawa sa’kin, kung hindi naawa yung mga prof ko, o yung CHED sa‘kin, ako naaawa ako sa sarili ko…pinipilit ko pa i-convince [ang] sarili ko na kaya talaga, kaso nakita ko na bumababa performance ko sa school…kaya nag-decide na ako mag-LOA.”
(“If they don’t feel sorry for me, if my professors or CHED don’t feel sorry for me, I feel sorry for myself … I was trying to convince [myself] that I really could do this, but I saw that my performance at school was declining…so I decided to take a LOA.”)
“Mas okay nang ma-delay ako, at least this time, kakayanin ko. Hindi naman dapat ako makipagsabayan sa kanila eh kasi hindi naman ‘to karera.”
(“It’s okay for me to be delayed, at least this time, I can handle it. I shouldn’t keep up with them because this is not a race.)
Is there a silver lining to this?
Things have been difficult for everyone since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Christine Verdeflor, a student of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, chose to file a leave of absence not for herself but for the welfare of others.
“I decided to join mass organizations and spent most of my time and effort in organizing poor communities within Manila. It became my coping mechanism,” said Christine, disclosing that she first developed a mental health issue after a few months of spending her time inside her home, constantly worrying about her family’s health and finances.
She continues, “Eventually, I’ve decided to dedicate my time to advancing the democratic and legitimate rights of Filipinos. I filed a leave of absence, not just because of my deteriorating mental health, but because I wanted to help a wider scope of people.”
During her leave, Christine has assisted some of the frontliners helping the toiling masses from starvation, improper health care system, and injustice.
When asked about the disadvantage of filing a leave of absence from school: “The only disadvantage I could think of from filing [a leave of absence] is the fact that I will be delayed for a year, but the smile and appreciation given by the masses compensate for this loss.”
This situation isn’t about resiliency anymore. It is about the greater awareness of one’s welfare and the call for collaborative participation among parents, schools, and the government to provide an education that requires absolute well-being amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Success has no timeline, regardless of one’s privilege.
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