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Catholic students in Philippines appeal for help

Undergraduates at Ateneo de Manila University want urgent talks with administrators over online learning woes

Catholic students in Philippines appeal for help

Students at Ateneo de Manila University say they want talks with administrators to iron out problems arising from online learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Ateneo de Manila University)

Student organizations at a Jesuit-run university in the Philippines have demanded an open discussion with its administrators regarding students’ struggles brought about by online learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

One Big Strike, a group of several student organizations at Ateneo de Manila University, this week urged university president Jesuit Father Roberto Yap and vice president Maria Luz Vilches to attend a public forum with concerned students.

The group said in an open letter that it wanted them and other administrators to engage in urgent, open and public discussions about addressing students’ challenges before the upcoming semester starts.

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Previous “town hall meetings” only assessed the challenges of online learning during the last semester.

“Everyone grappled with online classes … regarding academic tasks a lack of interaction between students from the same classes, and mental health issues due to stressful circumstances.”

The group also said students were encountering difficulties in connecting to the internet due to power outages and poor WiFi connections.

They also cited the “erosion of boundaries” between work and life, while social issues in the Philippines had worsened, such as the red-tagging of schools for being “breeding grounds for terrorism.”

“Some students are struggling to juggle their studies and working in order to sustain themselves and their families during the pandemic,” One Big Strike said.

It claimed students whose homes or accommodation were destroyed by recent typhoons had to move from place to place to gain better internet access.

The group also questioned whether their concerns were unique to their academic community or to the entire nation.

“We will continue to ask relevant questions since the challenges that we face aren’t challenges that are unique to Ateneo. Rather, these are challenges that exist beyond the university. What are we missing? What do we lack? How much more are we willing to sacrifice?” they asked.

Students from other universities have similar concerns.

“We would like to thank the students of Ateneo de Manila University for having the courage to speak up about the concerns of students in this pandemic. There are issues that school administrators need to consider. Giving out a lot more work is one of them,” University of the Philippines student Greg Alajanes told UCA News.

He said lecturers conducting online classes should be realistic about their expectations from students.

“I think students at Ateneo are also trying to reach out to professors to give reasonable homework and academic requirements. I know the classes are online but it does not mean that they should burden students further,” Alajanes added.

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