Several student councils across the UP system reported delays in the delivery of gadgets and internet subsidies through the Student Learning Assistance Support (SLAS) Online, which is meant to cushion the pandemic’s impact on financially challenged Iskolar ng Bayan.
At least seven out of the 10 councils that presented their unit reports in the 51st General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC) today, Aug. 31, attested to the lengthy processing of SLAS beneficiaries’ learning aids.
The SLAS is an extension of UP’s Student Financial Assistance program, offering monthly internet connection and load assistance, or gadget support for students from low-income households.
The UP Manila School of Health Sciences (UPM-SHS) Palo Student Council said that students confront the “perennial concern” of UP scholars’ delayed allowance. The promised P20,000 allowance has not been disbursed, citing vacancy of their school cashier.
“Starting nung September 2020 po ay di pa nila narerelease ang allowance nila. Dapat gagamitin para sa online class pero hindi pa nare-release,” said UPM-SHS Student Council Chairperson Nelson Gacud.
Similar problems were encountered by at least 24 out the 104 beneficiaries in UPM SHS Palo. Some also reported delays in their SLAS packages.
“It [took] almost three months before SLAS arrived and was handed out to the students. Delayed na po yung [UP] allowance, delayed pa po yung SLAS assistance,” Gacud added.
Semesters in UP have been compressed to as short as four months since distance learning began two years ago.
The UPM-SHS Baler Student Council bared that scholars of local government units had not received their allowances. As for their SLAS beneficiaries, at least 10 had pending deliveries for internet connection packages with gadget or load assistance.
“Ang SLAS po is malaking tulong sa mga estudyante sa SHS Baler dahil knowing po ang mga students ay from [geographically disadvantaged] communities, mahina po ang internet connection. Nahihirapan po kami mag-cope lalo na ngayong online class,” UPM-SHS Baler Student Council Dimson Sol-o said.
In UP Baguio, internal surveys showed that 17 of their 55 SLAS applicants have not yet received their gadgets or internet subsidy.
Student councils from UP Cebu, UP Manila and UP Mindanao (UPMin USC) also noted bottlenecks in the delivery of remote learning assistance to their constituents.
“Kung hindi naman delayed ang pagdistribute ng gadgets, hindi pa nabibigyan,” the UPMin USC said.
UP Los Banos University Student Council reported that all SLAS requests from their campus are either delivered or in transit. But UPLB USC’s surveys showed that over half of the students who have received their learning packages “were not satisfied.”
In the GASC, UPLB USC reiterated calls to provide better services to students, especially for SLAS beneficiaries and scholarship grantees as part of their 10-point Student Demands.
UP Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs (Student Affairs) Richard Gonzalo earlier said that securing students’ documents, forging partnerships with telecommunication companies and operating on a skeleton workforce were among the reasons behind SLAS’ setbacks.
But as the university trudges on with distance learning for the second year in a row, a looming P900 million budget crunch for undergraduate students in 2022 is likely to force a hand on its system-wide financial aid offerings.
“Ang mga gadgets at financial aid ay dapat prerequisite upang maging matagumpay ang pag-aaral ng estudyante online. Kailangan talaga tutulan ang budget cut na nangyari sa UP para masiguro na kumpleto ang mga kagamitan ng mga estudyante,” the UPB USC said.
With system-wide issues on remote learning, UP student councils have firmed their resolve in calling for the safe resumption of face-to-face classes, as the pandemic left schools indefinitely closed.
The Philippines remains one of the last five countries in the world that have not held face-to-face classes since March 2020, according to UNICEF.