Ayla Maria Dimzon
When the hard lockdown due to COVID-19 was imposed in mid-March, a time when most classes in the country were already ending, ours were still ongoing because they started a bit late in 2019. However, following quarantine protocols ordered by the local government, our university decided to suspend classes indefinitely. I felt glad at first, because a few weeks prior, my senior high school academics were stressing me out so much. At that time, I felt like I was on the brink of burnout. Class suspension meant that I could finally take a breather.
My first few weeks of quarantine mainly consisted of submitting requirements that some of our professors had assigned to us before the lockdown as well as catching up on sleep I have lost during the semester. The succeeding weeks were spent reading books, watching movies and TV shows, and cooking my favorite food with my cousins. I treated these tasks as an outlet for my frustration towards the national government, whose glaring incompetence seemed to exacerbate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in our country. It was all fun and games until the pressure of reviewing for college entrance exams started creeping up on me.
Being an incoming 12th grade student, who aspires to get into the country’s good universities and colleges, preparing for college applications is crucial. In May, I enrolled in an online review class. The experience was fine at first, and I quickly adapted to virtual setting (though I still preferred a face-to-face review), until our lessons shifted to the topics that I seemed to have not encountered before. I began to feel frustrated as I struggled to grasp the alien concepts. This frustration only grew bigger when I realized that I lost half a semester worth of learnings due to interruptions brought by the pandemic.
Eventually, my review classes ended, and I was left with no choice but to study on my own. I tried developing a workable study routine, but I could not maintain it. I was constantly distracted and on edge, with the thought that the dates of applications and entrance exams might be announced any day. I quickly became exhausted even though I did not even do much during the day except to study. This caused my motivation to shrink day by day, and I felt like I was completely succumbing to cabin fever.
My stress only heightened when I heard the announcement of a university I was planning to apply, over a change in their application process due constraints brought by COVID-19. Instead of the usual qualifying exam, the university will compute scores derived from applicants’ academic and extra-curricular performance in high school. As someone who is not exactly contented with her grades, this news took a toll on me. As I browsed through my Twitter feed, I saw students my age sharing the same sentiment. We all found the system unfair, because not all of us were lucky enough to have acquired good marks for multiple reasons — shady professors, responsibilities outside the school, and the lack of conducive environment for studying. It’s devastating to think that many of us may lose the chance of getting into our dream university based on that scoring.
Right then and there I thought how the unfair the country’s education system is. It is already bad enough that not all of us can afford to get into good universities because most of them have expensive tuition. Apparently, we must make sure we get “good” grades too to be considered worthy of studying there, as if we all have decent grading systems in the first place. My parents could support me, if I decided to go to a private university, but I don’t think everyone is just as privileged as I am. Right now, I have seen teachers and students alike struggling to cope with “blended learning” (online and modular classes), with so little resources to make it go. It’s a proof of the government’s neglect of the education sector.
I am livid. I am livid at the government’s terrible response to the COVID-19 crisis. I cannot help but think how everything would have been different right now if it had heeded the call to impose a travel ban early on. I, along with thousands of students, would not have missed half a semester’s worth of learning.
Some people say that this pandemic completely crippled our whole system of living; I beg to disagree. I believe that our economic, healthcare, and education systems were already broken, and the pandemic just exposed their hideousness to hasten their inevitable collapse. Maybe it is safe to say that systems that do not value human life are not built to last, and it took a global crisis for most of us to realize this.
I heard many people say, “I cannot wait to get back to normal.” Again, I beg to disagree. We should not allow ourselves to be broken by a system that does not recognize our worth as human beings. Alternatively, let us build a new normal, a better normal – one where each one of us is treated with compassion and dignity. A system where human life is never compromised for the sake of profit, healthcare is universal, and of course, where quality education is freely enjoyed by every child, and where their worth is not reduced to their academic performance. This may sound too idealistic, but it is not entirely impossible; not if we take the proper steps towards the reforms we long for and rightfully deserve, starting with opening our eyes to the injustices we are facing.
All illustrations were taken from freepik.com