Survival of the Fittest, a term made famous in the fifth edition of "On the Origins of Species" by Charles Darwin, stated that organisms which best adjusted to its environment succeeds. In brief, only the fittest survives. The status in our educational institution seems to be reminiscent of such term especially now that students' voices are boisterously seeking for academic freeze.
As a flashback, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) upheld its belief that we are indeed ready for the challenges that the pandemic poses against our educational system. Accordingly, the top universities have been into flexible learning even before the emergence of the health outbreak and that the other universities have already shifted to such mode of learning.
And so, in the face of the pandemic, Cagayan State University pushed through with the opening of classes and did not contemplate the possibility of having an academic freeze, thus eliminating it in the equation. In its pursuit of adapting to the current situation, CSU braces itself with its flexible learning strategy (LENS and social media) and printed module for those who have weak connectivity. To reiterate, learning will not just be through online. CSU will be utilizing blended and flexible learning where professors use online and offline instruction synchronus and asynchronous assessment.
Now, will this provide quality learning? How effective is this strategy? The answers to these questions are what we should look forward for. Undeniably, CSU administration is ready. But are we, students, really ready for it?
On August 17, 2020, we entered into the unknown. As we kicked off the online classes last week, the excitement that we used to feel during the opening of classes was turned into confusion and fear. Probably, we were overwhelmed by confusion and fear for we entered what we call "New Normal" in the field of education.
Currently, we are inside of a maze struggling to choose the path to take that would get ourselves out. We are inside of a dark tunnel walking hastily to seek for light. Considering the fact that we are in an unprecedented moment, we are put in a more challenging stance. But we could not just waver.
Despite this, we know that learning should never stop. That is why we gathered ourselves and prepared to take on the challenge of the new normal.
We really want to learn. Trust us. We badly want to pursue our education. Believe us. We are trying. Hear us.
In as much as we would like to continue learning, we also struggle. Just like our administration who painstakingly adjust, there are also times when we lose the sight of the way. But we are grateful.
Whether we like or we don't like to study is clearly not the question. But, it is more of, are we ready or not that justifies the situation. Students may be asking for academic freeze but I vouch on one thing, it does not mean that they don't want to study. Assuming that students who request for academic freeze don't want to study sounds apathetic and insensitive.
In fact, academic freeze is not our bastion of hope. We would never like to opt this if only there is a levelled playing field. We would never resort to expressing clamor for such if only we are as privileged as the others. But the sad reality is, some of us don't have the means to adapt to the new normal. A number of students are not privileged enough to acquire equal access to the education that we would be receiving for the meantime. And, if these things do not make them fit enough, does this mean they have to be left behind? Does this mean they would not succeed?
I come from a poor family. My father is a farmer and my mother is a housewife. It has always been our plight to agonize because of lack of money. To be fair, if we look at the situation mathematically, the expenses that we would have to spend during face-to-face classes which include our foods, fare, boarding fees, and auxiliary matters are much bigger than what we spend for the blended and flexible learning. In fact, it is a weak argument against the aforesaid learning strategy.
But, today is not a usual and lucky day for all of us. Our parents have become jobless. And, given our situation, my parents could hardly suffice our basic needs at home, something that is worsened by the pandemic. We are in a pandemic and every peso counts. It pains me inside to ask for money to buy load knowing that the budget is already allotted for our daily needs.
The situation of those who are in favor of academic freeze could be more painful. Their stories could be worse. Yet, do not judge them because you are not in their shoes. Do not judge them because amidst this, the determination that we all have to pursue and finish our studies is beyond words.
Asking for academic freeze does not equate to resistance to learning. It is just that situations of numerous students do not permit them to maximize their learning, hence their request to put it in a halt. Not everyone has a gadget or money to acquire such in order to view the materials. And not everyone has a stable connection to access the learning modules due to the internet connection which is disappointingly sluggish.
Everyone wants to continue learning but not everyone can easily adapt to the situation. So, is academic freeze the answer? NO. Should they be left behind? NO. Don't these students like to have good life? NO. Should they be disregarded? NO.
I am not in favor of academic freeze but I have reservations. I am not in favor of academic freeze but I understand those who call for it. They also want to learn as much as possible and they also have plans of having a good life.
I firmly believe that there is always a way in making everything possible in the midst of pandemic. We may not be really ready. Starting something new is definitely not easy. But, doing a thing, no matter how hard and painful it is, is better than just complaining but doing nothing.
As students, we are willing to take on the challenge of the new normal. But our willingness to learn necessitates support, understanding, care and empathy.
This is not survival of the fittest. This concept should not apply to our case. Every CSUan deserves to receive sufficient amount of help to get "fit", fit enough to survive. It may be in the form of reaching out, load allowance, leniency in the passing of requirements, and consideration in the grading system.
On the other hand, since as students, we would like to survive, we might as well try our best to be fit. Help ourselves by doing the tasks given to us responsibly and diligently without an iota of procrastination. If we are asked to perform an activity, do it. If we are to submit an assignment, work on it. If we have concerns, express ourselves.
This article comes with fervent hope to empower and enjoin all CSUans to be together in this journey. Meanwhile, while it is true that learning should continue, may we be embraced by compassion so that we realize that no CSUan should be left behind.
Remember the line "One CSUan" that we enthusiastically chanted during the last campus visit. As CSU vows to transform lives by educating for the best, it should hear our voices.
Listen to us who struggle. Hear our pains. Together, we struggle. Together, we face the odds. There should be no lone survivor here. We should ALL be survivors.