MANILA - Grade 11 student Charise Escaño’s has congenital dislocation of the knee, a condition wherein the bones in her knees were not fully developed.
But she was able to walk through the school year using distance learning.
“Mas maayos po kesa sa face-to-face,” Escaño told ABS-CBN News.
“Kasi po minsan bumabyahe po kami. Mas napapadali kapag dito lang sa bahay kasi cellphone lang po gagamitin."
(This is better than face-to-face classes. We had to commute back then. It is easier when you are at home because you will only need a phone)
Her aunt Beverly Bangayan agreed with her, but said slow internet connection has been a challenge.
“Mas natutukan kaya lang ang hirap ng internet. Minsan walang connection, mahina iyong WiFi kasi sa dami nilang gumagamit. Kumbaga, nahuhuli sila,” Bangayan said.
(I can focus on her but the internet has been slow. Sometimes we have no connection or the WiFi is slow due to many users)
Meanwhile, Marilen Go’s child, a Grade 3 student, has been diagnosed with global developmental delay, which is considered a mild autism.
Go’s child has repetitive actions and sometimes has trouble controlling his emotions.
She admitted this has made distance learning even harder, although in some ways, the method helped her reconnect with her child.
“Hindi siya isang bagsakan. 'Pag hindi kinaya ngayon, mamaya. Pag hindi mamaya, mamaya uli. Tapos mamaya uli. Pag di pa rin kinaya, bukas,” said Go.
(It is not overwhelming, you do not need to do the work immediately because you can do it later. If you cannot do it today, you can do it tomorrow.)
“Hindi lang ako ang nakatutok sa kanya, kundi ang buong pamilya ko, nakatutok sa kanya. Dati ang anak ko, paisa-isang word lang iyan. Isang word tapos minsan sa isang araw, isang salita lang maririnig mo. Ngayon hindi, verbal na siya, okay na. Nakakakwento na siya, nakakatanong na siya.”
(I am not just focused on her, I am focused with my family too. Before, my child can only speak one word a day, or I will only hear them talk seldom. But now, they are verbal, they have asked questions and could share their thoughts.)
Dr. Genevieve Rivadelo-Caballa, executive director of the Alternative Learning Resource School Philippines, said while the pandemic has seen children under special education (SPED) having an even harder time, some were able to “thrive."
“Majority mas nahirapan. Pero meron din nag-thrive, meron din nag-bloom, surprisingly. Mayroon tayong mga bata na talagang mas marami pa silang developmental milestones during the pandemic and I think one big factor that we can attribute to that is the parents' involvement," Caballa explained.
(Majority had difficulties but there were those who thrived. Some surprisingly bloomed. Some children had more developmental milestones that the others during this pandemic.)
"Kasi ngayon with online learning, walang choice din iyong parents but to really be the ones to be the lead facilitator of learning. So mas nakilala nila iyong mga anak nila, mas natutukan,” she said.
(Parents have no choice but to be more involved with their children because of the online learning setup. They learned more about their children, they became more focused)
President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday continued to thumb down the Department of Education's (DepEd) recommendation to conduct limited face-to-face classes, amid the threat of COVID-19 and its variants.
In a statement on Wednesday, DepEd said it will abide by the president's decision but continue to "prepare and improve the delivery of quality education".
"Nonetheless, we will continue to prepare and improve the delivery of quality education no matter what the circumstances will be in the coming months. While we remain optimistic to open schools when our situation improves, we are ready to fulfill our constitutional mandate in supporting our learners and teachers in any form of learning available," the statement read.
Some parents want the government to gradually let their children return to school.
For parent June Ramos, education authorities should consider allowing students to return to school even for just once or twice a week.
“Kasi iba iyong feeling ng estudyante kapag ang kasama mo, kapwa estudyante rin. Hindi katulad dito sa loob ng bahay, maraming distraction,” said Ramos.
(Being with a fellow student feels different compared to staying in your own home, there are a lot of distractions.)
Behavior therapist Mark David Magbanua said social interaction is one of the “major components in one’s well-being” as this is a “building block as we move on with our lives” and a venue “to address and to facilitate” one’s emotional responses towards other people.
“The academic part, that's something that we can deal with for the online classes and the modular approach,” he explained.
“If we combine it, you know, like for these kids to come in for a few days for them to see their classmates and say 'Hi' and 'Hello', I mean this will, I think, create a big impact for the development of these kids.”
Caballa believes SPED students should also be considered in the resumption of limited face-to-face classes, as virtual lessons may not work for every student.
“May mga bata talaga who really cannot do online learning. They cannot even stay in front of the computer for more than 2, 3 minutes at a time. Minsan iyong magulang din, hindi na nila masuportahan pati iyong haba ng panahon," she said.
(There are some kids who cannot do online learning... some parents, meanwhile, cannot support their children throughout the online learning setup for a very long time)
"Kaya napaka-importante (this is why it is really important)
especially for those with moderate or severe disabilities, if they can somehow be prioritized in returning to school. The soonest possible time, the better,” she explained.
Education amid and post-pandemic
In a press conference on June 21, Education Secretary Leonor Briones reiterated the agency’s stance – education must continue amid the pandemic.
“Choosing between blended learning and no learning at all, total lockdown, there is no choice. We had to devise ways by which we could continue the process of education, even as we were aware that it's not necessarily the perfect world, the perfect solution that we are demanding in an imperfect environment, in an imperfect political, social, and economic environment,” said Briones.
Education Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio said home-based learning will also remain even after the pandemic.
“We are now in the midst of doing an analysis of the self-learning modules that would still be reused… We are preparing to implement a better version of the blended distance learning delivery modality that we have implemented last year,” San Antonio said.
For Caballa, students from all sectors must be able to experience the policies being implemented.
“Hindi rin puro advocacy. Parang ang tagal na nating nagtutulak din ng awareness, although mababa pa din, pero kailangang sabayan pa rin ng talagang programs, educational programs, healthcare programs and services for them kasi lumalaki iyong mga bata, hindi pwedeng maghintay. If they miss out on those opportunities early on, detrimental iyong effects noon in the long term,” she said.
Schools in the Philippines remain closed, except for some colleges and universities that were allowed to conduct limited face to face classes for Medicine and allied courses.