Text by and Bernadette Anne Morales Angela Ng
Students nationwide are struggling to adapt to remote learning as the new school year opens, but not all homes are conducive for studying. Study spaces — considered the new classroom in virtual learning — barely exist for others. Those with limited space at home are not afforded the privacy and environment they need to cope with the rigors of virtual learning.
Despite the government’s move to employ distance learning measures, students have been struggling to keep up this year with inadequate resources. Some are striving to work around poor Internet connection and lack of materials, while others barely have a table and chair to work on their academic requirements.
The pandemic has thrust all learners towards an unusual academic year, but each one has their individual circumstances. Schools must consider the varying situations of students and educators. Even amid a pandemic, the government must not forego the learning conditions of students in a mad dash to call the academic year a success. Without adequate funding and aid, the call to leave no student behind will remain just as bare as the makeshift tables that they use to study.
In his second year of college, Miracle had to build his own table so he could sit comfortably while studying. Even then, he prefers to work on his bed because it is difficult to move in the tight space, and rainwater leaks through holes in the ceiling. The diagrams and pad paper posted on his wall are required output that Murillo had to create by hand, as his old phone cannot edit videos or send PDFs.
To afford the necessary educational materials such as a laptop, a lamp, a table and other school supplies for himself and his siblings, he had to start his own #PisoParaSaLaptop campaign online to ask for donations from the public. “[N]agsisikap akong mag-aral dahil gusto kong [maka-graduate] agad. Kaya naman hindi ako pinapatigil ng aking mga magulang kahit nahihirapan na sila, dahil ako na lamang ang inaasahan nila kapag nakapagtapos ako ng pag-aaral,” Murillo said. A junior college student taking up Journalism at UP Diliman likewise has trouble locating a proper study space in his home. “Coming back after a year of leave, it is indeed hard to adjust [to] getting the same amount of units [as] last year in this kind of set-up,” he shared. He does not have a personal work area, so he must conduct schoolwork at night.
“I know that there are lots of students having [a] worse situation than me, but I am aware that we share the same sentiment that studying at home is not as conducive as we think it is,” he shared. For her first year in the University of Caloocan City, Human Resource Management student Claire created her study space by placing two wooden chairs next to each other, one seat functioning as her table.
“Minsan masakit sa katawan. [Paiba-iba] din ang pwesto ko para maging comfortable” she said.
At times, she is not able to use these chairs because they are needed for other purposes such as family celebrations.
Avery*, a first-year Education student from Cavite State University, bared experiencing difficulties in adapting to his humble workspace.
“There are times that I feel cloistered due to adjustment to my workspace or I am not accustomed [with] studying in a small room,” he said.
Avery is also struggling with poor Internet connection that hurts both his eyes and his wallet.
*Not source’s real name Development Communication sophomore Justine shares this workspace with three other family members. The recently bought second-hand computer monitor, CPU, keyboard, mouse and webcam are also shared by their family in a cramped and humid area of their small house.
“Remote learning means self-study, and [self-]study is appropriate only to those who are privileged to study in a nice space and [have the necessary] materials,” Justine said.
Hannah is a senior high school student who shares this space with two other family members.
“My family [is] still struggling financially since there are three of us studying. We already lack funds for our basic needs, and now our tuition fee and school requirements [are also] adding up,” she shared.
As her school shifted to alternative modes of learning, they initially permitted students to use mobile phones in attending online classes. A few weeks in, however, the school required its students to purchase a laptop, forcing Hannah’s parents to shell out already scarce resources amid the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coloma is a first-year student taking up Communication Research, a course that demands copious amounts of online activity and research. Having no access to a laptop, he accomplishes schoolwork with a recently acquired phone. He also shares this workspace with one other person. Nevertheless, Coloms shows gratitude for having a designated area to gather his materials and study.
“Hindi kailanman magiging epektibo [ang remote learning] kung ang ibig sabihin nito’y may isang batang naiiwan. Hindi para sa lahat ang remote/online learning. Isang pasakit ito sa mga nagnanais ng tunay na pagkatuto.” Early Childhood Education first-year Abby shares this round table with one other member of their household. With the lack of space, she feels uncomfortable in her study area.
Abby’s college uses both synchronous and asynchronous online learning on various learning platforms. However, Abby finds that her school is not entirely prepared for the academic year.
“Hindi pa sila ganun ka-organized. Nakakairita lang kasi [parang] hindi rin naman online class ‘yung meron kami. [P]arang modular lang din kami kaso nasa files lang [siya] ganu’n,” she said. Zur, a first-year college student from Santa Rosa, Laguna shared how he had to purchase new equipment to catch up with online learning.
“My laptop is over 6 years old and is running slow even with Microsoft Word 2007. It’s quite vintage that I cannot run Zoom [on it] without it overheating and crashing,” Zur shared.
Mai, a senior university student taking up Mathematics, sits on the floor and uses a bench as her table for schoolwork. On top of lacking space conducive for studying, she also struggles with an unreliable internet connection. Mai finds it difficult to concentrate during synchronous classes due to other household members passing behind her while on the call. Her home is also located close to a road, so she is constantly disturbed from her studies when cars pass by. First-year Secondary Education student Mel struggles to adapt to blended learning as she enters the Dr. Emilio B. Espinosa Memorial State College of Agriculture and Technology. She lacks the learning materials and school supplies – like bond paper, ballpens and a laptop – necessary to adjust to the unfamiliar mode of learning. She finds it difficult to accomplish her tasks and assignments due to her crowded and inadequate workspace. The Internet connection in her area is also very slow and inefficient. Despite the difficulties, Mel remains hopeful for the future.
“[I’m] still waiting for the time that this pandemic would end… in God’s perfect timing. Still hoping,” she shared.
In their condominium unit, Dom sleeps on the upper area of the bunk bed she shares with her sister. When she wakes up, she goes straight to schoolwork on her foldable laptop desk to avoid wasting time preparing for a class in the morning. However, having her desk, laptop and charger all on her bed has depleted the quality of her sleep over time. She cannot work on their dining table outside, because this is where her sister simultaneously attends online classes.