Online classes weigh heavy on mental health


Amidst the country’s struggle against the global Covid19 pandemic, students, parents, and educators continue to face additional challenges with distance learning, and the subsequent negative effects on their mental health.

In October of last year, the Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Briones hailed the reopening of public schools as a “victory” over Covid19.

However, the reality of the situation was that only 80% of all learning modules had been distributed to students, while teachers tackled increased workloads and millions of the youth were unable to remain in school.

Furthermore, by lowering their enrollment target from 27.7 million down to 22.2 million, the agency was able to conclude “great success” as it reached 26.6 million enrollees.

Meanwhile, concerned parties called out the program’s flaws due to inadequate preparation on DepEd’s end.

No more than a week into the reopening, materials distributed by the agency were found to have numerous grammatical and typographical errors, along with unreasonably difficult tasks for students.

Issues such as perpetuating stereotypical gender roles and red-tagging in the module content, were also brought to light by angered netizens.

In late 2020, a network of educators, parents and students known as the Movement for Safe, Equitable, Quality and Relevant Education (SEQuRE) conducted three online surveys to assess the progress of the distance learning program.

Results were then published on January 27, showing that 53% of the 620 student respondents “do not think or are not sure if they can learn the competencies set by the DepEd for their grade level under distance learning”.

Of 1,207 parent respondents, only 42.7% felt confident that their children understood their lessons.

For 31% of 1,395 educators, one to three in every 10 students in their classes were not able to keep up with lessons.

SEQuRE research head and educational psychologist Liza Marie Campoamor Olegario mentioned a flawed material delivery system as one reason behind student difficulties.

She further stated that the country is neither used to distance learning nor prepared for it.

The survey also indicated that burnout for both students and educators was a further growing issue as well as 54.7% of students said that the activities had a negative effect on their mental and physical well-being.

33.4% said that distance learning had increased caused strain on familial relationships.

According to the Ateneo de Manila University’s Bulatao Center for Psychological Services executive director and psychologist, Cara Fernandez, the lack of social, face-to-face interaction while being stuck at home has a profound effect that eventually leads to rising tensions in the household.

Even worse, groups such as Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) and the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) reported increasing cases of suicide linked to the pressure of fulfilling academic requirements amid the pandemic.

13 students that took their own lives were cited by the SPARK, while ACT reported the case of a teacher from Leyte province.

DepEd however, asked the public not to associate the deaths with difficulties from distance learning.

The agency also appealed to schools to look after the mental well-being of their students and teachers.

This resulted in some module activities becoming optional.

Despite DepEd’s insistence on being prepared for distance learning, Olegario continues to highlight the need for systemic changes in order to ensure that no more students continue to suffer.

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