Leaving No One Behind: Safe Schools During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Youth in the Philippines have been dealing with a prolonged education and child protection emergency due to COVID-19. All public schools have been closed since March 14, 2020, forcing over 22 million children out of school for over 17 months, making them at increased risk of domestic abuse, gender-based violence and online exploitation.
The Philippines recently reimposed 24-hour house curfews for all minors due to the increasing COVID-19 cases in the Philippines with new virus variants that are more potent and contagious. As a result, education has changed drastically as the whole world transitioned to e-learning. This kind of setup leads to a lot of challenges such as stable internet connectivity, gadget accessibility, and conducive learning environment.
Girls Got This, powered by FundLife International, conducted a recent survey in Cebu about the coping mechanisms of the beneficiaries during this difficult time with reference to the economic impact of COVID-19 to their families, mental and physical well-being, education (as to the current set up provided by DepEd), and their overall well-being.
Majority of the youth who took part in the survey were aged 17, 16, and 14. This age bracket belongs to the Senior High School students.
The respondents were asked about the availability of stable internet connection for their e-learning setup.
53. 4% of the respondents answered YES while 40.8% said that they don’t have an available internet connection while 5.8% answered that they use mobile data to connect to their online classes incurring additional expenses.
When asked about gadget accessibility, the majority of the respondents own a mobile phone. Mobile phones serve as an educational tool to help the students fulfill their educational needs.
Smartphones provide two major advantages in learning education. Firstly, it fetches the people towards distance learning and makes education easily accessible to everyone. Secondly, such a revolution in e-learning brings society possessions in a school and spreads education from school into society (Kuswani, 2008).
Hiple and Fleming (2002) reported that distance learning had evolved and removed the communication barrier through mobile phones.
Majority of respondents answered that the purpose of their web browsing is solely for research, for information purposes, and for communication with other people.
We asked the respondents about the frequency of their browsing to the internet and 64.7% answered that they need to access the internet every day for their online classes.
Majority of the respondents strongly agreed that they are having a hard time finding a good wifi/data connection for their online classes.
Fast internet speed has a significant impact on online learning; it reduces class time allocated by students searching for information on the Internet and provides them with more chances of synergy for knowledge construction by facilitating browsing, scanning, and searching.
The internet speed in the Philippines is unstable and intermittent and it greatly affects the education of the students.
Majority of the respondents agreed when asked if they owned a smartphone. They also spend a lot of time surfing the internet specifically on social media platforms.
FundLife International is on the forefront of addressing the education catastrophe in Tacloban and Cebu City by providing opportunities to the highly vulnerable youth. GGT also designed a community-led and technology-based approach to reach the most vulnerable children amidst the devastating effects of the pandemic.
Since March 2021, FundLife through Girls Got This has initiated Girls Got This- Resilience in Action (GGT: RIA) to directly reach the most vulnerable adolescent girls to keep them safe and in learning.
To ensure at-risk children from marginalized communities are not forced to give up on their education, FundLife has been working to provide vital and immediate protection and learning packs in the most marginalized communities.
We reached a total of 1, 125 adolescent girls with safe-at-home (SAH) and learn-from-home (LFH) packs between April and July 2021. In addition to providing SAH and LFH packs, FundLife is carrying out mentorship and support classes for children who do not have an enabling environment to study from.