With the pandemic leaving schools with no choice but to resort to online learning despite the lack of resources nationwide, students have already spent the majority of 2020 encountering difficulties that hinder them from getting the education they deserve. Then, matters were made worse this month when consecutive typhoons hit the country.
The storms claimed lives, injured hundreds, and left many families without their homes. So, it’s an understatement to say that those affected by the typhoons shouldn’t have to worry about school on top of all that, especially when the lack of government response has left citizens to depend only on each other. This is why the action being taken by students to fight for their peers and countrymen is crucial.
What are the petitions calling for?
Students from various schools are stepping up to make their respective administrations and the national government listen to them. Through their petitions, they called for an academic break in solidarity with students who were victims of the typhoons and are still recovering.
All the petitions have the same gist: students are being left behind and no one – particularly schools and the government – should be allowing that to happen. DLSU’s petition states that an academic break is imperative because “the basic human right to education is harshly compromised and remains vulnerable to unprecedented disasters.”
Beyond academic breaks
The petitions, however, are more than just a call to suspend both synchronous and asynchronous classes. They also specifically acknowledge that the reason that so many people are suffering in the first place and can’t recover is because of the government’s poor disaster response, including how the administration has failed its citizens in handling the pandemic.
In the petitions, the students made sure to condemn the systemic issue that was larger than whether classes are suspended or not. The petitions were also a demand for the government to do better.
A petition signed by UP faculty members touched upon this as well, stating, “We urge the UP administration to hold the government accountable for all its injustices and neglect that led to the magnitude of our affliction […] The struggles of the academic community will not be over no matter how many times we help our students and faculty – it will not be over until Duterte steps down.”
The university that has gotten the most attention from public officials so far is Ateneo. This is because of the students’ call for a mass academic strike in which hundreds of signatories pledged that, starting November 18, they will not submit any academic requirements until the “national government heeds the people’s demands for proper calamity aid and pandemic response.”
The work that these students and faculty are doing should not have been necessary. The administration should have been the ones taking care of its people from the beginning. However, given the government’s failure to do so, these academic communities’ effort to mobilize and demand action and accountability is exactly what we need to get the people in power to listen.