Ever since the “new normal” became a norm, I could not help but think that there is something in our batch of learners that screams "unfortunate." To start off, I am part of the pioneering batch in the Philippines to undergo the K-12 learning system. This system was a big leap in the educational landscape of my country. There were advantages and drawbacks, and how our education system would do in the future depends on the results of our batch.
Come college; I had a fresh start. I took up Bachelor of Science Chemistry, as it was a dream since highschool. The first two years were cliché for a normal college life; meeting new people, experiencing things I never thought I would, had downfalls but got up — it was typical but momentous. Then the unexpected happened, the world was afflicted with a pandemic.
It has been a year and a half since the world took a complete turn. It has also been two and a half semesters since I last stepped foot in my beloved university. If someone asks me, "Hey, how have you been handling things?" It would be a lie if I say that things are going great because I hate to break it, but I'm not fine at all.
I have to be honest, I was not worried during the first few weeks in quarantine. Maybe because I thought that the pandemic would only last for weeks or about a month. Even the thought of online classes got me excited because it was a new learning setup, not knowing it would last longer than I had anticipated. But look at me now, it's almost two full semesters of online classes.
Adjusting in the first semester of online classes was a challenge for students and teachers alike. No one was prepared for the complete transition to virtual learning, especially for skill-based courses such as mine. The thought of having physical classes in the future was the only hope I clung to, giving me enough enthusiasm to continue to learn virtually, until it became a blur.
As an upcoming 4th-year chemistry student, spending more time in the laboratory learning practical skills is essential. Nothing is more frustrating than having a year's worth of laboratory practice turned into hours of staring at a computer screen because of online classes. It affected us so much that I could only imagine the struggles it brought to the lower years who had fewer laboratory experiences than us. As much as I appreciate our teacher’s efforts to help us learn, virtual experiments and demonstration can never replace physical practice, and neither is to blame.
But my problem does not end there. As an upcoming senior student, my mind is confused right now as to how I would deal with our On-the-Job Training (OJT) and our undergraduate thesis being done at home. The lack of laboratory materials and experience is frustrating as it is, and seeing uncertainty for my OJT becomes the final nail to my coffin. I am starting to doubt myself if I will graduate with the same competence as those with full laboratory training. And I know that I am not alone when I say that this setup has made us more fragile than we already are.
These struggles are from someone who has the privilege of having a sturdy home, a table with food, clothes to wear, and constant access to the internet. I cannot speak for everyone nor represent them. But I am sure that some have struggles equally as valid as mine, if not more so.
No matter how different our lives right now, one thing is sure — this setup is gradually extinguishing the raging fire within us. I will keep on fighting, but without having a glimpse of even the faintest light at the end of the tunnel, persistence becomes tiring. I pray the day never comes when I have no option but to give up, but for the time being, I will fight.