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Pasig City serves as bright spot for remote learning environment

Enzo De Borja

Ang hirap, parang hindi matapos-tapos.” (It’s difficult, seemingly never-ending.)

Ron Trias, a second-year AB Political Science student at San Beda University (SBU), was unable to hide her dismay while talking about the Philippines’ abrupt transition to remote learning. She has been attending virtual classes from her home in Barangay San Joaquin, Pasig City, for more than a month now, and the experience is not getting any better.

“Academic demands are heavily focused on submitting requirements and reading materials that [the] majority in my class are struggling to meet,” she adds.

Ron is not alone in lamenting the numerous difficulties presented by the sudden shift to remote learning. Across the archipelago, students have climbed mountains in search of internet connection, relied on goodwill appeals to purchase needed gadgets, and ventured into online businesses for the sake of continuing with their education.

Resiliency, often romanticized as a Filipino trademark, becomes a rallying cry in times of crisis. Unfortunately, it won’t be enough without tangible and substantial government support. No matter how creative and resourceful the country’s students may be amid a raging pandemic, millions have been unable to enroll, while others are barely hanging on.

Aside from students, teachers and parents have also borne the brunt of the pandemic’s impact on the education system. According to newly-installed Manggahan High School Principal Monette Pacaigue-Vega, technological and logistical constraints have hampered teachers’ adjustment to an online teaching setup. On the other hand, parents have raised concerns about not having a conducive learning environment at home and being unable to guide or help their children with their studies.

“The remote learning modality has amplified the digital divide between households who have access to technology that is crucial in achieving a meaningful learning experience and those who do not,” Mrs. Pacaigue-Vega remarked.

As the COVID-19 pandemic shows no sign of abating in the short-term, remote learning woes will only deepen. Although implementing a nationwide academic freeze may seem attractive to many, ensuring a safe return to schools is dependent on successfully combating the virus’ spread. Without a comprehensive plan that prioritizes medical and scientific solutions, the path towards an inclusive recovery remains bleak.

As the Philippines nears its eighth month under lockdown — which is among the world’s strictest and longest — it is not surprising that yearning for effective and responsible leadership has also blossomed among Filipinos.

Fortunately for Pasigueños, they have an abundance of such.

As early as July 2020, Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto has already earmarked 1.2 billion pesos for the purchase of more than 138,000 laptops and tablets for public school students and teachers, in anticipation of the immense challenge of learning and teaching without face-to-face interaction.

“138,000 — ibig po sabihin (this means), one is to one. One computer or one tablet is to one student,” Mayor Sotto emphasized during his State of the City address last July 2, 2020.

The first batch of tablets and laptops has already arrived last September 23 and 26, respectively. After undergoing rigorous inspection, the city government will distribute the gadgets just in time before the start of classes on October 5.

Aside from providing technological necessities, the city government has also spearheaded various efforts aimed at helping its citizens adapt to unconventional times. These include the “Nanay/Tatay” Teacher Workshop and the distribution of learning packets to the city’s Special Children Educational Institution. Back in August, it also announced a partnership with leadership organization JCI Manila and Vice President Leni Robredo to build a distance learning facility in Barangay Pinagbuhatan, Pasig City.

Pasig City has emerged as a rare bright spot in a gloomy remote learning environment. With Mayor Sotto at the helm, Pasig has seen a crackdown on corruption that yielded a tremendous amount of savings that citizens will undoubtedly benefit from, especially during difficult times.

The city government's efforts have not gone unnoticed. In social media alone, Filipinos have been taking note of Pasig City's accomplishments as the national government continues to stumble.

"The city government is doing an excellent job especially in the education sector by providing all the resources and assistance to deliver quality education for all Pasigueños as we contend with unprecedented circumstances," says Mrs. Pacaigue-Vega.

Pasig City's experience has shown that compassionate leadership and sound policies work wonders, especially in unfamiliar territory. Learning and teaching amid a pandemic and an economic recession is indeed daunting, but they are not impossible with a government that listens to and cares for its people.

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