For most students, this will likely give you deja vu: you’re sitting in class and it’s March 2020. Your teacher just announced that the next few days are suspended. Your seatmate then turns to you and tells you that their friend in another school also had their classes suspended.
For a brief moment, you’re relieved and looking forward to getting away from urgent deadlines, but alas, the joy doesn’t last for long. You get home and find out that the World Health Organization officially announced a global pandemic. The situation starts to sink in and the relief from earlier slowly turns into anxiety. You now know what’s going on, but you can’t tell where exactly it will go.
Skip to a full year ahead and it’s 2021: We are facing changes (and losses) left and right. We don’t know when this pandemic will end. But it has to. And when it does, the youth’s lives will change once again—back to the “new normal” of on-site interactions and a future full of uncertainty.
One thing’s for sure, though, these spaces will change drastically as soon as students transition back to the physical setting:
Students always have those places they frequent once the dismissal bell rings. Whether they are places within the campus, malls or restaurants, they will once again be accepting young visitors.
More and more people will gather and while establishments have now implemented health protocols and physical distancing, these guidelines might be pushed to their limits. The maintenance of limited table seatings, regular sanitizing and accomplishment of mandatory health forms were all introduced because of the pandemic.
However, once the threat of the pandemic is gone, such routines could cause frustration in those who believe they no longer apply. How can the safety of the youth be ensured then? It’s a hassle if every establishment a student could go to would already be full, due to limited capacity, but at the same time, they shouldn’t risk going to spaces that don’t guarantee their safety.
The announcement of class suspensions in March 2020 marked the start of a shift in the Philippine education system. Their “temporary” solution to continue academic classes was to adapt to the online setting.
Online learning is taxing. Most, if not all of us, are experiencing the many negative effects it has brought. Any student—any teacher, even—may feel that online classes can be more like business transactions than what actual school should be like.
Classes are spent looking at discussion comments, ID boxes, and profile handles of teachers and fellow students who we won’t get to genuinely form connections with. All our interactions are centered around required exchanges. The social aspect is gone.
It will be a sigh of relief when—and hopefully, not “if”—we transition back to onsite learning. If in-person classes do push through, our education will not be affected by how fast our Wi-Fi is, what gadgets we own or how much disruption we cause to other members of our family who are experiencing their own struggles. Some stressors like traffic, contraction of sickness, weather (and yikes, live recitation!) will of course, be present once again.
However, the experience of being on campus, hanging out with your friends, and having accessible resources will be unparalleled.
The youth are known for being vocal on what they are fighting for. Many campaigns and organizations for social issues (whether they’re for the environment, LGBTQIA+, women’s rights or workers’ rights) are youth-led.
With the transition to the online setting, campaigns now maximize the use of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Discord to spread awareness on their causes. Many youth leaders and students do still take to the streets despite the risk of exposing themselves to the public.
However, it should be noted that they do not violate health protocols as they take the necessary precautions and follow social distancing. Such platforms are necessary and the presence of the pandemic itself is a solid reason to raise our voices.
Not only did the pandemic affect the ways we interact with one another, but it also brought lasting effects on the Filipino’s livelihood. Thus, the call for responsible leadership hasn’t changed; many of the platforms students create and participate in echo this statement. This is the most pressing issue of our generation and while there are many actions, online or offline, that we can take to secure a safe future, registering to vote is one that is urgent and impactful.
Adjustments will come again once the pandemic ends. Fear will be apparent, but no more than the desire to seize opportunities when they arrive. We, the youth, haven’t lost sight of what we need.
The author is a student at the Ateneo de Manila University.