When physical classes are cancelled, a family struggles to cope with the new normal

Life has always been challenging for young Devorah and her family. But when the world shut down and classes were switched to modular, it became tougher for them. Thankfully, World Vision partners with various stakeholders to reach children like Devorah.

In a highly urbanized city in the Philippines, a family of six faces different struggles everyday brought about by the health pandemic. Devorah, a 14-year-old teenager, and her siblings are struggling to cope with the new normal setting of education.

Before the pandemic happened and face-to-face classes were still the norm, Devorah was a determined student. There were days that she would go to school even with an empty stomach. Her class attendance was almost perfect.

“I made sure to go to class everyday even that I neither had breakfast nor my lunch money,” 14-year-old Devorah says. “I was determined to excel in my studies because I want to achieve my dream someday of becoming a doctor,” she continues.

But the young achiever is facing a setback. During the early months after the pandemic happened, opening of classes was postponed. The government finally decided to continue the classes using the online and printed modular method.

For students in public schools, the classes are done by printed modules. The parents collect the modules – which are tirelessly prepared by the teachers – in the schools and the children read and answer it at home. After answering, the parents return it to the teachers at school.

For a few weeks, Devorah tried to go through the modular lessons. However, she eventually came to a decision to stop her schooling because of various reasons.

“I was having a hard time adjusting with the new way of learning because there were no discussions from a teacher and I had to comprehend it by myself,” shares Devorah. “My mother could not also help me because she is busy all day doing laundry for others so we can eat.”

Aside from the drastic change of the way she learn, Devorah’s living condition also doesn’t help. Her family lives in a dilapidated home made of weak wooden and tarpaulin materials. The space, which is roughly 6 square meters and houses six family members including an infant, is not an ideal place for the teenager to learn.

During the lockdown periods, she also takes care of her younger siblings while her mother is away to earn money. Desiree, Devorah’s mother, is a single mother who offers laundry services to her neighbors to earn money. She earns P500 per day which she would use to buy meals for her children and milk for her youngest child.

Devorah watches her 1-year-old brother and feeds him. Sometimes, she switches with her mother and does the laundry for hire. “As one of the oldest siblings, I want to help my mother hold this family together through this crisis. That is why I also decided to postpone my education,” she explained.

The big sister is also attending to her younger siblings’ needs who continue their studies during the new normal. Nica 9 years old, and AJ, 7, are learning through their modules and Devorah serves as their teacher to guide them through their lessons.

While the responsible daughter has been productive with her free time during the pandemic, there is a bugging thought that worries her. “I feel sad because I stopped my studies. That is one year of my schooling that is lost,” she explained.

Devorah is one of the many Filipino learners who didn’t enroll during the opening of class last October 2020 or who dropped out within the school year because of the challenges caused by the pandemic. According to the enrollment data in a Philippine Star article, there are 24.72 million enrolled in this school year. The number represents 89.02 percent of the student population of 27.7 million in the 2019-2020 school year. This data translates to around three million students who may have dropped out of school.

World Vision responds

As a child-focused organization, World Vision is concerned about the well-being of students. The organization launched a health emergency response that reached 1.2 million children with preventive kits, food supplies, information and psychosocial, and learning kits support.

Aside from the response, World Vision also partnered with the Department of Education in the country to launch the Abu10 Natin fundraising campaign to raise funds to support the department’s Learning Continuity Plan especially in the printing of learning modules and purchasing of gadgets to support 10 million Filipino learners nationwide.

In Devorah’s community, World Vision also implements education and health activities under its Urban Development Programming (UDP) sponsored by various donors from Singapore.

For young children, activities include tutorial sessions such as reading, storytelling, and a variety of physical activities such as dancing and playing. Devorah’s sister, Nica, is yet to attend the sessions in her neighborhood that will start in the middle of June.

For the youth, they learn life skills sessions where they can learn about communication and interpersonal skills and maintaining their mental health. Devorah is also one of participants of this activity.

The child and teenage participants go through 12 sessions, which happen every Saturday, to complete the program. The activities started last March.

Her youngest brother will also be enrolled in the programme’s Urban Nutrition Hub where he will receive nutritional feeding while her mother, Desiree, will learn good health practices to help keep the family healthy during the pandemic.

Health protocols are strictly observed during these activities to protect the welfare of the facilitators and the participants.

Devorah is grateful that she was invited to the youth sessions. She shared that she learned valuable lessons even for short periods of time. “The most important thing that I learned during the sessions is to have a goal in life and that education is the key to achieve it,” she shares.

With what she learned from the workshop and the encouragement of the World Vision staff and the community volunteers, young Devorah decided to continue her studies in the next school year even if classes remain modular.

Participants of World Vision’s Urban Development Programme sing and dance during a tutorial session. The activity is led by community volunteers partnered by the organization. Health protocols such as wearing of face mask and limited number during mass gathering are followed.