Student death highlights need for mass promotion, groups say

Dorothy Andrada
The National Union of Students of the Philippines points out that the government should implement policies that will not compromise the welfare and safety of the students and families as the country grapples with the pandemic

CAPIZ, Philippines –  Groups continued to urge the Commission of Higher Education (CHED)  to suspend online classes and implement mass promotion in schools on Saturday, May 16.

This came following the untitmely death of 20-year old Kriselyn Villance, who was a second year student of Capiz State University – Dumarao Campus. 

Villance was on her way home after searching for an internet connection to submit her class requirements. She was riding a motorcycle being driven by her father when they figured in an accident. While her father only obtained scratches, Villance died as she was rushed to be transferred to another hospital. 

Wake-up call for government

In a statement, National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) urged CHED to see the death of Kriselyn Villance as a wake-up call for the national government to push for an educational system that is ‘sensitive’ to the plight of the students amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Although what happened to Villance was an accident, NUSP pointed out that the government should not turn a blind eye and implement policies that would not compromise the welfare and safety of the students and families as the country grappled with the pandemic.

“Advisories and memoranda related to education amid this pandemic are nothing but empty rhetoric as long as public officials remain insensitive to longstanding demands for pro-student guidelines and directives,” NUSP continued. 

Inappropriate educational system?

This was echoed by Sandigan ng Mag-aaral para sa Sambayanan- Polytechnic University (SAMASA PUP) as it pointed out that Villance’s death is a manifestation of the current system that is not appropriate or favorable to students living in rural areas. 

“Hindi isinasaalang-alang ng pamahalaan at ng mga namumuno sa mga unibersidad ang pinansyal at mental na aspetong dala nito sa mga estudyante. Ipinapakita ng pamahalaan na wala itong pakialam sa kaligtasan ng mga estudyante at mas uunahin pa nito ang huwad na pagkatuto ng mga ito at ang kikitain ng mga namumuno sa mga unibersidad,” SAMASA PUP said. 

(The government and university leaders do not consider the impact that the pandemic brings to the financial and mental aspect of students. They have shown they don’t care about the students’ safety and would instead prioritize false learning and profit of the leaders at the university.)

“Maging hudyat sana ang ang nangyari para dinggin ng CHED ang malawak na panawagan ng mga kabataan para itigil na ang online classes at ipatupad na ang mass promotion,” Kabataan Partylist Cagayan Valley said in a statement. 

(May the incident urge CHED to hear the call of the youth to stop online classes and implement mass promotion.) 

Risks with requirements

With schools shifting to online classes on account of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Villance was not the only student to have gone to extremes in order to comply with academic requirements. 

“Students are exposed to unnecessary risks whenever we go out of our houses to access the internet and comply with school requirements during these difficult times,” NUSP added. 

Numerous posts on Facebook and Twitter have gone viral, where Filipino students are seen climbing trees or even mountains just to get a good internet signal for their classes. Such posts have been met with outrage by netizens and student groups alike, calling out educational institutions for prioritizing academic output over student welfare.

Earlier in March, students from the Philippines’ top 4 universities submitted a petition to CHED calling for the suspension of online classes and the mass promotion for every student in the country. 

In April, student government councils from various colleges and universities in the country held an online rally with the same demands. Both were done with the reasoning that not every student has access to internet and the devices to make online classes conducive for learning. (READ: #HAUyokoNa: Students urge Holy Angel University to suspend online classes)

“While we understand the need for learning to continue, the different circumstances of students across universities are not ideal and conducive for such,” said the students in their petition.

However, CHED ‌has not backed down on its statement that it would issue a memorandum to promote en masse all college students across the nation. Instead, the institution is now advocating “flexible learning”, which is said to be a combination of both digital and non-digital technology.

Earlier this week, the government coronavirus task force approved CHED’s resolution to open classes in colleges and universities based on their mode of teaching. In a press briefing, CHED Chairperson Prospero de Vera III also stated that colleges and universities should start classes in August.

Despite this, student groups such as NUSP are still rallying for the suspension of online classes. The death of Kriselyn Villance has only given them more reason to do so.

“An educational system that insists to meet rigid and pre-determined academic standards will surely compromise the safety and welfare of students,” stated NUSP. – Rappler.com

Dorothy Andrada is a Rappler mover from Roxas City, Capiz. She is currently based in Quezon City and is a college freshman at the Ateneo de Manila University.