As Filipino students adjust to the demands of distance learning, many of them have banded together to ensure that no one is left behind during the pandemic.
Their problems ranged from lack of money and tools to absence of internet access, such as that viral anecdote of a student going so far as climbing a mountain to look for a good signal just to comply with class requirements.
This prompted groups such as Project Walang Iwanan, a student-led advocacy, to come up with a donation effort to ease the burden of students who have no internet access at home.
Project Walang Iwanan seeks to provide free prepaid load to students in need. It started as a small class initiative when its founder, Jason Cureg, a student from the University of Saint Louis-Tuguegarao, lent his classmates load credits so they would have access to the internet.
By June, Cureg decided to expand the project to a donation drive.
This time, he went beyond just helping his classmates by reaching out to less fortunate students from Cagayan and neighboring province Isabela.
In an interview with Rappler, one beneficiary of the project shared how the help from Project Walang Iwanan came at the right time.
Marjohn Baligod, a sophomore student at the University of Saint Louis Tuguegarao, was on the verge of not taking his online tests during their summer term in June due to internet constraints.
Hours before his scheduled examination, Baligod was able to receive internet load from the group after he applied for load assistance the day before their online test.
Baligod would not have been able to take his exams if not for the group's drive to make internet accessible for underprivileged students.
According to Baligod, he came close to tears with surprise when he received the donation as he did not expect that the help would come at a time when he needed it most.
“Imagine, they already have the money but instead of keeping it to themselves, they used it to help us, their co-students, [who are] struggling [with] finances,” said Baligod.
By July 29, the group has already received P26,050.00 cash donations for 202 college student beneficiaries.
Seeing the impact of the initiative, Cureg has reopened the donation drive on August 17 to ensure that more students wouldn’t live worrying about the demands of online classes for one full semester. This will run until December 2020.
Not everyone, however, can adapt to online classes.
For remote areas where internet connectivity is unreachable due to weak signal and limited electricity, radio-based instruction and modular classes are some of the only available resources for students.
To help address this, Radyo Para Sa Baryo, a youth initiative, led a donation drive to help students in Sarangani. This aims to procure at least 1,000 radio units to be used for radio-based instruction learning in the disadvantaged and isolated areas of Sarangani.
“We are so focused sa online learning, nalilimutan na natin na we have students pala enrolled in other modality na kailangan din ng tulong,” said Radyo Para sa Baryo Project Head Rhoda Ebad.
(We are so focused on online earning most of the time. Sometimes, we forget that there are other students enrolled in other modalities that need our help.)
According to Ebad, even the barangay (village) teachers from Sarangani are calling for help so they can adjust to the new set-up, as schools lack the means to provide radio units to all its students.
Several schools in these remote areas haven’t started distributing radio units to students yet, as they are still waiting for help from various non-governmental organizations.
Through these radio units, students can listen to the radio educational programs offered by Department of Education (DepEd) in their homes as an alternative means of learning.
This is why the Radyo Para Sa Baryo Project took the lead in assisting several schools in isolated areas in Sarangani. “Your piso will surely go a long way. Your piso can make a change in a student's life especially those who are financially crippled,” said Ebad.
As of August 13, Radyo Para Sa Baryo has already gathered P52,451 cash donations from different donors across the country.
Aiming to raise P200,000, the group plans to distribute radio units to 1,000 student beneficiaries in Sarangani by September.
Radyo Para Baryo has teamed up with the Sarangani Provincial Youth Development Council and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) members to tap local officials in each municipality to allocate sufficient funds for the distance learning needs of students in the province.
Meanwhile, other group initiatives across the country continue to rise and are still accepting donations to address gadget and internet inequity of underprivileged students. These include Project WiFi, iUplift, Old Laptop Guys, One Gadget, One Child, Streets to Schools, and The Student Aid: A Cacion Uno Initiative.
While groups were quick to address the needs of students, they stressed the responsibility of government to ensure that distance learning is accessible to all.
“The government should recognize the plight of students and teachers... [what they] are going through just to have access to their online modules. There is an obvious lack of equipment to be used for e-learning,” said Cureg.
The Department of Education (DepEd) recently postponed the opening of classes to October 5 to pave more time for preparing the materials needed for distance learning.
Ebad hopes that DepEd will use the time to ensure no student will be left behind during this pandemic.
“A win-win decision [was] made, but I just hope that DepEd will really maximize the time to fix the system so they could deliver the ‘Edukalidad’ they are preaching,” said Ebad. – Rappler.com
Lance Mejico is a Rappler volunteer from De La Salle University-Dasmariñas. He is an incoming junior taking up Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Journalism. Currently, he serves as the Director for Programming and External Affairs of 95.9 Green FM, the official radio station of DLSU-Dasmariñas.