SONA 2021

Ahead of SONA, Cebuano youth call for gov’t accountability in State of Youth Address

John Sitchon
Ahead of SONA, Cebuano youth call for gov’t accountability in State of Youth Address

CALLS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY. Cebuano youth leaders share problems affecting students during the State of the Youth Address at the Cebu City Hall on July 19.

John Sitchon

Cebuano youth leaders emphasize students' difficulties with distance learning, and raise the need for a safe, gradual reopening of classes

Days before President Rodrigo Duterte’s sixth and final State of the Nation Address (SONA), Cebuano youth leaders and activist groups gathered at Cebu City Hall on Monday, July 19, to discuss problems affecting the youth and to make unified calls for accountability from the government.

Even before Duterte’s administration, members of the Kabataan Partylist and young leaders in Cebu worked together in conducting the annual gathering referred to as the “State of the Youth Address (SOYA).”

“The youth have always been carrying the calls of the masses like, ‘Ligtas na balik eskwela (a safe return to school),’ ’10k financial aid to students’ and also ‘Ayuda para sa tanan (Aid for all),’ and ‘No to carbon market privatization,’” said Kabataan Partylist Cebu coordinator Aurelle Cresencio.

“Along with this are our long call for genuine agrarian reform, resumption of peace talks, regularization to all workers, a self-reliant economy, independence from foreign influence, and a free and accessible education,” she added.

This year, youth leaders and activists from organizations like the National Union of Students of the Philippines – Cebu (NUSP-Cebu) raised their sentiments about the government’s policy on online learning – an issue that has gone through heated debates since the start of the pandemic.

“Students from Cebu continue to suffer from the government’s anti-poor and anti-student distance learning program. So much so that students are learning less, despite the inhumane workload they are given. Worse, this has led to dropouts,” said Angel Mendiola, vice president for Visayas of NUSP.

In an interview, Mendiola told Rappler the quality of learning has diminished during the pandemic, reflecting in the gradual rise of dropouts and a decrease of graduating students in Central Visayas.

Based on data from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) in Central Visayas, an initial number of 3,891 dropouts were recorded from 2020 to 2021. Moreover, only 29,805 college learners reportedly graduated that year.

“CHED and DepEd (the Department of Education) should, first and foremost, join the call for the safe, gradual reopening of classes, primarily because we can already see the distance mode of learning is no longer effective. The online way of learning should only be supplemental to actual physical classes where real learning happens,” Mendiola said.

To date, CHED chairperson Prospero de Vera III has said that there may be no going back to the traditional full-packed face-to-face classrooms and that flexible learning will be the new norm, whether it be modular or online.

Youth from student councils, non-governmental organizations, and other groups were also present during the event, with some receiving an award of recognition for their efforts during the COVID-19 crisis.

Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago was also present during the event via video conference platform Google Meet and gave her warm thanks to the Cebu youth for their active efforts in the community. –

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