education in the Philippines

Students urge schools to extend academic break amid rising COVID-19 cases

Eala Julienne P. Nolasco
Students urge schools to extend academic break amid rising COVID-19 cases

Photo from Adamson University Student Government,PUP College of Accountancy and Finance Student Council

'The students and professors, our primary stakeholders, are not mentally and practically ready to start the new semester,' says the PUP College of Accountancy and Finance Student Council

Following the government’s one-week extension of the enhanced community quarantine over “NCR Plus,” students from different universities have kickstarted petitions and sent formal letters calling on their school administrations to extend the academic break in light of the surge in COVID-19 cases in the country.

Several universities have so far taken the initiative to suspend synchronous and asynchronous classes, including the University of Santo Tomas, which extended its academic break to April 11.

Echoing similar concerns last 2020 during the first nationwide lockdown, university student councils urged administrations to recognize the impacts the surge in COVID-19 cases have left on other students and faculty.

Compared to the previous year, COVID-19 transmission is faster, making a surge in daily infections the norm. With total COVID-19 cases nearing 800,000, and hospitals operating at full capacity, university student councils highlighted the urgency of putting health first.

Prioritize well-being, academic ease

Student councils from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, and De La Salle University (DLSU) emphasized that the increasing cases of COVID-19 have severely affected students and faculty both physically and mentally.

“The students and professors, our primary stakeholders, are not mentally and practically ready to start the new semester,” said PUP College of Accountancy and Finance (CAF) Student Council, pointing out that the extended lockdown and its subsequent border restrictions have also immobilized some stakeholders.

The PUP CAF Student Council warned that disregarding these physical and mental strains could result in “mental health problems and violence.” Similarly, the UP Diliman University Student Council stressed that, based on the reports of their constituents who have family members with COVID-19, seeking medical assistance amid full-capacity healthcare facilities is draining enough.

As a response, both appealed to their universities for the extension of the academic break from April 5 to 11. Additionally, the PUP CAF Student Council demanded the absolution of the previous semester’s pending issues and requirements.

Meanwhile the university student councils of UP Los Baños, UP Manila, UP Diliman, and UP Visayas each released petitions urging the removal of “all stringent deadlines throughout the semester.” The joint petitions are being endorsed by the UP Office of the Student Regent (UP OSR).

UP OSR stressed that “the unstoppable increase of cases, as well as Duterte’s incompetence, inefficiency, and inutility already are compelling evidence to the call for a safe, free, accessible, and quality education now amid the pandemic.”

After conducting a survey with a total of 5,140 respondents, the De La Salle University University Student Government (DLSU USG) sent a formal letter of appeal to their administration to suspend synchronous and asynchronous classes until April 12.

“Should the prior proposal not be amenable to the University, the USG, at the very least, respectfully asks for an easing of academic requirements,” the DLSU USG said in their letter.

‘End sem now, pass everyone’

Meanwhile, the Adamson University Student Government (AUSG) sent a formal letter urging the President for Academic Affairs Office to end the semester and appealing for more extreme and specific demands.

AUSG complained that the current pandemic situation limits students and faculty from achieving the three academic demands of “compliance, commitment, and excellence,” and further hampers students and faculty from taking care of their mental and physical health.

The AUSG also said that students with COVID-19 concerns have other responsibilities to focus their energies on, and academic requirements without reprieve do not help. 

Noting how their previous requests for academic breaks have not been granted amid the prevalence of “online fatigue,” the AUSG listed appeals for all asynchronous and synchronous activities to be halted instantly, specific modes for conducting thesis defense, paced learning through open online course provider Coursera, and an “immediate conclusion of the current semester and giving general passing remarks.”

Emphasizing that no student should be left behind, AUSG said that “considering our country’s condition…we perceive it to be inhumane to continue with the semester.”

Students from different universities including DLSU and Ateneo de Manila University have long called for a more compassionate educational system, even lending their voices to implement a nationwide academic break to aid students affected by disasters such as Super Typhoon Rolly during the pandemic.

While DLSU and Ateneo de Manila University were among those that temporarily heeded students’ demands during the string of disasters in November, they have so far not suspended classes in light of the extended ECQ as of Monday night, April 5. Other aforementioned universities have also opted not to implement academic breaks. – Rappler.com

Eala Nolasco is a Junior Interdisciplinary Studies major from the Ateneo de Manila University. She is currently a MovePH intern.