The administration of Western Philippines University (WPU) is prioritizing the mental health care of its faculty and students as it gears to open classes on October 5 with a significant decrease in the number of enrolled students.

“We see the need for another training on psychological first aid because all of us were affected by the pandemic. We started basically with the psychological first aid to our faculty and staff,” Dr. Julie Hope P. Evina told the City Council on Tuesday, appraising the readiness of the state university college (SUC) class resumption.

Acknowledging the “impact of the digital divide” among the average household income of the students, Evina added that the school opted to go 65 percent offline, mobilizing distribution of printed modules to the students in their respective municipality.

“The average family income of our students is P10,000 and below, so if we have to insist on online classes, that will be a great burden on the part of our students,” Evina said.

Based on the survey conducted by the university, only 27.5 percent have access to fast connectivity, while 66.5 percent have access to “very slow” connectivity, and 6 percent have no internet access at all. For the data connection source, a whopping 94.68 percent are dependent on mobile data. Only 3.89 percent have access to wifi and 1.42 percent use mobile hotspot.

In terms of access to digital equipment, the majority are dependent on their smartphones, while only 13.41 percent have laptops, and 0.7 or less than 1 percent have desktop computers.

“For places where we have our external campuses, we will bring our modules to our campuses. For the Puerto Princesa campus, the modules can be picked up by students. That’s the reason why we decided to move the classes to October 5 so by that time we are all already ready with the printed modules,” Evina added.

WPU has also seen a significant decrease in the number of enrollees for school year 2020-2021. As of August 28, only 957 students have enrolled compared to 3,000 in 2019.

“This year, for the first time we implemented the full online registration and we felt the impact of the digital divide,” Evina said.

(With a report from Jeshyl Guiroy)