the midst of a Pandemic

By Lanie V. Salvador, Head Teacher III, Palayan City NHS

A little concerned seeing the news yet never bothered to think about it again, I never
thought the announcement of a 5-day suspension of classes in Metro Manila is the beginning of a
drastic change in our daily lives. After the announcement, students were joyed to have time and
prepare for their final requirements, however, one week became a month and a month became
two years – suddenly, our perception of time became warped or either was in a halt and this
“temporary thing” eventually influenced and heavily impacted us permanently.
The abrupt change in our routines were confusing and disorienting, I wasn’t waking up
early, getting ready to go out, commuting to my workplace or seeing loud students anymore – I
was suddenly not doing the things I did for years. News and articles were rapidly flashing about
the devastating situation of the pandemic every single day, and it was disheartening and
overwhelming to see. Despite the situation, everyone still tried their best to practice the social
responsibility to isolate and protect public health.
As the world slowly try to adapt to this change – and vaccination became widely
available – the education system has yet to completely adjust to continually be accessible in a
world of isolation. Virtual learning through different platforms such as zoom, google meet,
Microsoft teams and even social media sites such as Facebook are being used for students with
internet access. However, most students in public schools located in provinces have limited
access to the internet, thus, modular learning is the main modality of learning in most of these
places. While these strategies and approaches are great responses to the pandemic, we cannot
deny these are only stop-gap measures.
Collaboration, interaction, and social-emotional development are hugely stolen by the
pandemic; students have difficult time socializing without physical interactions from other

people. Slow internet connection causing delays, limited space and financial resources to study
and attend classes, and overlapping work and personal time are some of the minor problems I’ve
noticed with the current system, and primarily how ironic that students and teachers have
difficulty in deeply connecting with each other, specifically recognizing body language or
emotions integral in socializing, in abundance of communication technology – there is a
disconnect or gap that only meaningful social human interactions can provide.
More so, the central challenge students are experiencing is the excessive pressure of
continuing education in a midst of a catastrophe, that can definitely affect students emotionally,
mentally and even physically. According to Jonathan Decker, a licensed therapist, abrupt
changes of how you perceive and experience reality, whether that’s threaten or lost, will take
time to be fully processed even if you logically have the idea that the reality you once have is
gone. How are students expected to be able to continue studying and be at their best performance
when they’re still processing the pandemic? With more than a year of virtual education, it is very
alarming that there are cases of suicide of students that can be directly or indirectly connected to
the pandemic. But what’s certain is there is an increase of students struggling with their mental
health – how students felt more disengaged during discussions, low enthusiasm to learn and poor
academic performance.
Since poverty is prevalent in our nation, mental health support, more so health in general,
is greatly inaccessible to most – as poverty can be one of the root causes of the increasing mental
health problems among students. Even before the pandemic, a lot of students are still forced to
immediately enter the workforce at such a young age which affected their development and
academic performance due to opportunities and resources not given equitably with our current
political condition. Moreover, cases of family violence and rape have also increased due to
several long lockdowns.
Imagine how it’s much harder for students to study while simultaneously coping and
survive in these trying times. Furthermore, while our situations have completely changed, the
competition-based learning of the education system is still experienced in which extrinsic factors
such as high grades are the main motivation of the students – adding pressure within students.
Alongside with their personal struggles, studying in the pandemic have affected students to
experience anxiety often, as there is a lingering feeling of uncertainty of the future, as well as
being limited to access support systems and restricted from traveling to other places to unwind.

Hence, it’s necessary for us educators to practice empathy, deeply understand the
struggles our students are experiencing, profoundly connecting with them and take action when
we have the opportunity to do so. We, as educators, have the capacity to influence, provide
diverse knowledge, give motivation and direct students by giving them the possibility of a better
future. We should also be the means of the students who are voiceless with their situations. It is
fundamental to give our students full support by listening and lending a hand, recognizing, and
understanding the flaws of the current education system and in our society, and improve by
changing and modifying according to what the students really need, even without a pandemic. As
the central point of education is to gain knowledge to develop ourselves and using this
knowledge through morally principled ways in helping ourselves and the betterment of the
society, and I hope we practice this, as educators of today.