I saw the Facebook post of my sister, who is based in New York (USA), wishing my niece a great year as she went back to school again after more than a year of being “absent”. Meaning, classes now are back to normal, face-to-face or in person, that is. The post also mentioned, “Rainy first day of school…” Not to mention, New York at that time was being beaten by a hurricane.

It is said that it was a record rainfall and “historic” flooding in the area. Come rain or shine, and even a catastrophe, the show, er, the school must go on. On that same day, I received in my email an update from the university where I studied in Spain (Europe). It informed us, alumni, that the academic year has commenced, “Comenzamos hoy oficialmente el Curso Academico 21-22 en este tiempo de incertidumbre y de sufrimientos compartidos, pero tambien de illusion y de esperanza.” Put simply, the “show” must also go on.  In other words, schools, after quite a long time of being not, are now open (at least, on those two sides of the globe).

Back home here, when does your school begin? Some schools opened last month, many will start this month. Not a few had opened as early as July or even earlier in June. Meanwhile, K-12 in public schools officially begins this Monday (September 13, 2021). What will make this out of us then? And our common life in general? We no longer have a common schedule. Gone will the days be when summer is a vacation for everybody. How will Christmas Holidays be when some would be free from school assignments while the others would still be bringing home researches and projects? My childhood memory has it that the month of May would always be Flores de Mayo. As such, instead of going to school, we went for catechesis (and some biscuits, to be honest about it) in churches or parishes. Will this be the “new normal” in schooling from now on? Heaven forbid.

All told, as classes begin once again, it should be seen that the education sector is one of those hardest hit by the pandemic. The case would no longer be “back to school”. Rather, it is the school itself that will make a comeback. School is coming back indeed but it is like an injured man on crutches and bandages trying with each step to regaining composure. Mahirap… pero gagapang at babangon. Have all the luck, dear school.

How many children will not be able to enroll this school year due to financial crisis? As school administrator myself, my heart bled overhearing a parent in our registrar office, “Saka na lang po mag-enroll ‘pag may trabaho na.” Consider the data in the private schools. Before COVID 19, there were 4.4 million learners enrolled. Last year though, there were only 2.1 million came back (50%, that much).

Meanwhile, according to the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations of the Philippines (COCOPEA), as of August 25, only 201,147 students have enrolled in private schools. And from the Department of Education (DepED), 865 private schools in the country have shut down due to obvious reasons brought about by the pandemic. Imagine how many students are displaced right now and how many teachers went unemployed. Think about too of the businesses that rely on school operations- boarding houses, school supplies, transportation, among others. I wonder how are these sectors being accorded with “ayuda” for more than a year now and counting.

And the students themselves, I can’t really help but ask- Kumusta na kaya sila? For those having online classes, they only see each other virtually; those of modular, they are not seeing each other at all. In Baccalaureate Masses last month, I told the graduates in a jest, “Biruin nyo yan, naka graduate kayo ng hindi nakapasok sa school.” In reaction, I saw their faces with impish smiles. For some, it was such a big loss that the last time they saw their classmates/friends was when school declared a break due to a pandemic. They were thinking that such a break could only be like a semestral break or so. The said break effect for them broken spirits. “Akala po naming bakasyon lang, yun pala di na kami magkikita ng BFF ko po.”

Emotions in education are a major concern, to say the least. Children need to grow together with each other. It is in the ambiance of the school that they develop social skills. In healthy competition, they hone their talents. Through a teacher, they can expound a sense of authority or leadership. But with schools down and out, where will these emotions find their nests for breeding and roosting?

It’s really curious how some activities/businesses have persisted (and even raking lots of money) amidst the pandemic while education has come to a halt. Something is really amiss somewhere, a big thing that is.  When education is hindered due to crisis, sooner than later it would be unfortunate to see a crisis within a crisis, or, crisis upon crisis. Says the Latin maxim – “Aegrescit medendo” (The remedy is worse than the disease.) 

Meanwhile, the show, er, the school must go on. There should never be an alibi to the contrary. Possibilities are just up there. Pick what suits best a specific circumstance (online, modular, visitations, etc.) Don’t give up, adjust. Never quit, adapt.  Don’t dare blink, rise to the occasion. Learn, learn, learn (pun very much intended).