A day before the start of Academic Year 2021-2022 of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM), progressive youth groups as well as their student council trooped in front of their school to urge for the resumption of physical classes due to the difficulties they experienced in a year of flexible learning.

Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights (STAND) PLM chairperson Christel Buergo noted that there were 1,500 drop-outs (categorized as either students who filed their Leave of Absence (LOA) or just those who were AWOL) or 11.54% of 13,000 enrolled students in PLM last Academic Year 2020-2021.

The student leader said 1,500 individuals should not be seen as a small number by school administrators, the Commission on Higher Education and President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

Buergo attributed the decreased number of enrollees last school year to:

  • lack of financial support for expenses for flexible learning
  • many chose to work to provide the basic needs of their families due to the severe economic crisis
  • mental health of students,
  • health of the students was also directly affected, with an estimated 100 recorded number of illnesses and 31 of the staff, according to the latest survey by the PLM-Supreme Student Council (PLM-SSC).

“Malaking isyu rin ang pagiging kulang ng understanding at appreciation namin sa mga subject naming lalo pa’t applied subjects ang inaaral namin na kailangan pinapraktis mo rin ang skills sa pakikitungo mo sa mga tao para maayos kang makapagtrabaho,” Buergo added.

[It’s also a big issue that we lack understanding and appreciation of our subjects, especially since we study applied subjects that require practicing your skills in dealing with people so that you can work well.]

The group further noted that online learning scheme is due to the inept pandemic response.

Recent daily COVID-19 cases surpassed last year’s peaks, as the country experiences a fourth surge due to the Delta variant. The Philippines logged over 20,000 new COVID-19 cases for the third consecutive day.

Vaccine rollout remains slow, with only 15,033,354 fully vaccinated Filipinos or an equivalent of 21.48% of 70-million target for herd immunity even after six months of the vaccination program.

The National Capital Region was placed in the strictest lockdown category for the fourth time since the pandemic began, further aggravating loss of income and jobs among parents of students.

“Wala ring mass testing, maayos na contact tracing, pati ng quarantine facilities sa kabila ng paglustay ng pamahalaan sa pondo ng bayan para sana sa lumalalang pandemya,” he complained.  

[There is also no mass testing, proper contact tracing, as well as quarantine facilities despite the government spending away public funds for the worsening pandemic.]

Buergo then urged the students to join them in the call for resumption of face-to-face classes.

“Sa hanay ng kabataan lalo na sa ating may pribilehiyo pa, hinihimok tayo ng ating pribilehiyo na magkaisa para sa panawagan ng pagbabalik sa pamantasan dahil tukoy natin na marami tayong kapwa-kabataan na napag-iiwanan.  Tukoy rin natin ito bilang karapatan na dapat nating ipinaglalaban.”

[Among the youth, especially those who still have the privilege to study, our privilege enjoins us to unite for the call for return of physical classes because we are aware that many of our fellow youth have been left behind. This is also a right that we must fight for.]

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