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Burn in

As the world starts to return to a form of “normal” that could turn out to be nothing like the prepandemic life that we reminisce over, people are going to have to deal with the many different changes that were caused by the pandemic.

In the Philippines, I worry if our educational system is ready to turn back to full face to face classrooms. Our educational system that has been saddled with notoriously overcrowded classrooms, even among private schools, might face major challenges if it we are going back to full face to face classes when the new school year opens in a couple of months.

Education officials and school administrators will have to put in place a hybrid system that can compensate for the classroom congestion issues that have been a problem even before the pandemic. If classroom sizes cannot be increased, class sizes will have to be reduced for classrooms to be safe in a world that is still recovering from a pandemic that managed to shut the world down for more than two years. Let us hope that they’ve been working on finding a solution for post-pandemic schooling while campuses have been essentially shut down and useless over the past two years.

Aside from the safety of school children if and when they go back to school, we also have to worry about the adults, whose work-life balances have changed drastically throughout the pandemic.

Many employees who have been working for home almost exclusively over the past two years will also be returning to workplaces they can no longer recognize. People will have to learn to dress up, commute, and interact with real people once more. The boundaries that were shattered by the work from home arrangement will have to be reestablished when employers are made to realize that employees will start clocking in and out once more at the actual workplace, and that homes and family time should no longer part of the office.

The adjustments that everyone will have to go through will be significant, especially for the little ones who have never experienced face-to-face schooling and human classmates.Whoever is responsible for the Departments of Education and Labor will have to be ready for those challenges.

I get the feeling that the current heads of government agencies are already following their leader’s lead and are already on vacation mode sohopefully, whoever wins the presidency in the May 9 elections already has the people and the programs ready and in place to help this country ease into the new normal. This will be a tough job and a one-word catch-all slogan might not be enough.

If you come to think of it, last year in the US, their labor department has revealed that 4.3 million Americans left their jobs in August 2021, the highest number on record. During that same period in the UK, the number of open jobs surpassed 1 million for the first time ever. Analysts say there are several reasons why workers are quitting, from poor working conditions, fears of contracting COVID-19, and existential epiphanies. This phenomenon dubbed the “great resignation” may not be felt in the Philippines because we are a mostly poor people who do not have the luxury of simply quitting our jobs because we are fed up, but the attitudes towards work and life have been changed by the pandemic all over the globe and that is something any government, employer or school preparing for a post pandemic world will have to take into consideration.

As we are preparing to burn in to a new normal, our world has to be careful to avoid burning out the people that have survived the pandemic. It has been a very stressful 2+ years as we adjusted to a new lifestyle and work-life equation, all while dealing with constantly changing threats from the COVID-19 and the various quarantine and alert levels thrown at us by our government as it scrambled to find the right pandemic response. Now that we are almost sure that we will be easing into what should be our “new normal” for the next 2 years, we aren’t even sure if schools and workplaces have been evolving and preparing for whatever comes next.

Are classrooms going to be packed with up to 40 students when schools reopen? Is it now normal for bosses to call and meetings to be held way past dinnertime? How many sick days do workers get and are quarantine precautions charged to employers or employees? The new normal is already upon us and yet there are so many unanswered questions. Is there anyone who intends to answer these questions very soon?*

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