THE issue of holding online classes for summer has divided the Ateneo de Davao community. College students have launched online petitions to call for the suspension of summer class because of the quarantine and lockdown due to the pandemic.
After university president Fr. Joel Tabora SJ responded to this appeal with a statement, saying “If some students don’t want to be part of this then they can in freedom prioritize housework to homework. If they can’t, they either stop studying or enroll to a school that can.”
After that remark, Ateneans on Twitter-verse made the hashtag “AngDiliDatuUndang” (The Poor Better Quit) trending. Students posted that this phrase was a joke, until now.
Administrators and teachers on one side say academic life must continue despite of how Covid-19 disrupted our economic and social life. On the other side, students ask is education still on top of their minds when their families and friends are worried about lockdown, loss of income and normalcy?
If we read the petitions or the posts of those who led the petition which is on social media, we can consider their economic and social situation. Some are working students, who may not avail of summer class. Students who are now at the safety of homes in provinces, find an online class difficult because of poor Internet connection outside the city. Ateneo Law students, who have been conducting online classes now, share their experience that indeed slow connection is not making them focused. There is a question between practicability and the ideal of academic freedom.
The student publication Atenews editor-in-chief wrote in her column pointing out that this is an issue of how the university seem to miss to practice their call for social justice. “How can a university preach about social justice and at the same time ask its students to freely exclude themselves if they can’t afford online learning? Rather than addressing the problem, this only invalidates their struggles and frustrations in entirety. Social justice inures to the benefit of the most vulnerable—and in this case, the students.”
As an Ateneo alumnus, I say this is an extraordinary time, and such time calls for our social justice and solidarity to help the communities we involve in to survive. In this time, checking how students and faculty and their families are doing matters more. Helping out communities affected by government’s haphazard quarantines matter more.
We are learning different things now: survival, science, weighing how this government seems to be failing, learning how to be truly caring for the whole.