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Back to school?

School year 2021-22 has started for many private schools in the country. Most school children who didn’t even get to enjoy a proper vacation from the online schooling experiment of 2020 because they’ve been stuck by government incompetence and apathy in their homes for more than 500 days with no end in sight, are not looking forward to another year of online schooling but they have no choice but to suck it up and soldier on.

The way things are going, the nation’s children are doomed to spend at least two years of their lives stuck at home, with no meaningful social interactions beyond immediate family members. Grade schoolers will be growing up with a different definition of the word friendship while high schoolers will miss out on what should be the best days of their life. There is nothing we can do about it because they cannot be inoculated yet in a country where only 11 percent of the population has been given the COVID-19 vaccine.

School will resume but it will be online. There may be advantages, like not having to wake up early to prepare for the commute to school, but as far as this parent is concerned, there seem to be more disadvantages because of the piss-poor implementation of most online schooling programs in the country. All we can hope for at this point is that the famed Filipino resilience will carry this generation of kids through this crisis and allow them to reintegrate back into the world without losing too much in terms of academic competitiveness and social skills.

We can also hope that the school system and administrators have learned their lessons from 2020 and are this time fully committed to the online schooling system that is part of the new normal. If last year they were hopeful that normalcy could come back in a few months, experiencing the past 500+ days of one of the world’s worst pandemic responses should have made them realize that optimism is only for the hopeless romantics in this country. The realists have to assume that the worst is here to stay so they can move on and work with what we have.

As we gear up for SY2021-22, we will need to have our home/schools/workplaces prepared. Internet connections need to be either upgraded or provided with decent backups to ensure smooth connections to the school and workplace. Power security will need to be ensured, using a combination of uninterruptible power supplies and/or standby generators for computers as well as home networking equipment. Study and work areas must be comfortable so last year’s tables and chairs have to be checked and repaired or replaced if necessary. Air-conditioning, if critical, must be serviced and maintained. There are also tuition fees to pay and books and school supplies to buy. If your kids’ school considers video editing and content creation to be a necessary life skill for good grades, parents should’ve upgraded those during the summer break.

At the rate this country is going in its march to herd immunity from COVID-19, SY2021-22 is another lost cause, especially for those who were hoping for the return to face-to-face classrooms. It’s actually not that bad if we consider purely academics because well-managed online classrooms have the edge compared to their traditional counterparts but we also have to look at what an entire generation of kids are losing out aside from academics due to the fact that they will be unable to go back to school for at least two academic years in this country.

This would all be totally understandable if the rest of the world were also allowing their school children to fall behind but so many other countries are doing so much better than the Philippines when it comes to handling the pandemic that it’s scary to think about how far we will be left behind when this ordeal is finally over.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. That’s the story of our life under the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether we do something or not, we are still in danger of getting left behind. We go back to school, not because we want to, but because we have to. Unlike last year, when the proposal for a gap year was being considered, another gap year is out of the question. Our kids will have to go to school and as parents, we can only hope that whatever they are going to go through this year is better than last year and then pray that whoever graduates the pandemic school system still has the necessary knowledge and skills to compete in the global market when their time to shine comes.*

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