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Ateneo suspends online classes amidst COVID-19 pandemic

As a response to the “personal, social and psychological impact of COVID-19”, Ateneo De Manila University President Fr. Jett. Villarin, S.J. declared, in a memorandum, the suspension of online classes during the Enhanced Community Quarantine measures of the government.

Following the said announcement, Ateneo Law School Dean Joey Hofileña also followed suit and deferred from the University’s earlier policy regarding non face-to-face instruction.

“Suspending online classes doesn’t mean suspended online learning,” Fr. Villarin said. He encouraged all teachers to share study materials online so that students can learn at their own pace during the quarantine.

Fr. Villarin also directed all faculty, staff, professionals and administrators to work from home. Those required and authorized to do online work can avail of the internet connection subsidy. Moreover, the University will also release 25% of all employees’ 13th month pay, in accord with President Rodrigo Duterte’s appeal to employers to advance such prorated amounts.

Other universities including their law schools suspended their online classes as well, such as University of the Philippines, San Beda University and others.

Online classes

Due to the steady increase of recorded COVID-19 cases in the country, the Ateneo earlier announced, in a memo dated March 9, 2020, that a dry-run of the University’s contingency plans will ensue. This meant the switch from on-site, to online classes.

On March 10, the government suspended all classes in Metro Manila. Five days later, President Duterte would put the whole NCR in community quarantine and on March 17, declare an enhanced one–strict home quarantine measures with increased presence of military personnel– for the whole Luzon.

Before the declaration of the Enhanced Community Quarantine, Dean Hofileña, reiterated the need for online classes and even examinations to comply with the school’s academic calendar despite the challenges brought by the COVID-19 issue, through a memo.

“With respect to the adjustments we will have to make on the academics side, even as we fully acknowledge the immense disruptive nature of the current pandemic, we are endeavoring to adopt measures that will allow us to maintain, as best as we can, the status quo in respect of our commitment to teach, in the administering of exams, and in adhering the current academic class and exam schedules,” Dean Hofileña said in a memo dated March 13.

As the government notched up its program against the pandemic, Fr. Jett Villarin also said in a statement that the enhanced quarantine does not suspend the online classes.

“Concerning the directive of Pres Duterte on the extended community quarantine, we interpret the suspension of classes to mean the suspension of onsite classes. Thus online classes at the tertiary level shall start on 18 March and continue during this period of quarantine.”

The student situation

As the government’s community quarantine mandated a strict limitation on movement outside one’s house and as well as the suspension of all air, water and land transportation, most students who went back to their provinces found the continuation of classes through online means difficult. This was one of the challenges being brought up against the policy on online classes.

The Ateneo Student Council conducted a survey regarding the current situation of the students amidst the quarantine period. Of the 825 Ateneo Law students, 771 responded. At the moment, there are 297 students who are staying outside NCR where 50 of these students came from Visayas and 20 from Mindanao, accordingly.

Six hundred seventy-five students or 8.5% of those who voted opted “no” for the conduct of the online exams. The major reasons, according to the Student Council’s letter to the Dean were that there is a risk of disconnection, the online examinations would cause unnecessary anxiety and that the process itself would be prone to cheating.

“I think it is a fair and helpful decision to suspend the online classes (and in effect, the online midterm examinations) given the circumstances of the law students now. Learning the law requires focus for us to fully absorb it,” said Yen Rase, President of the Ateneo Law School Student Council.

“But I also agree that online learning, for those who can and want to continue it, should not stop. It can be done through various ways, like browsing through our notes, books, and syllabi, or even by keeping our eyes and ears open to ensure that the right to life, liberty, property, and security is still upheld, though reasonably limited, during this time. We are still law students even under this unprecedented situation, which may or may not call for our help in ensuring that the Constitution and laws are upheld,” she added.

Early in January, the Student Council started its disease prevention program by distributing face masks to the whole student body. Anti-bacterial alcohol were also installed in each classroom. Moreover, there were increased sanitary and health measures effected through the posting of disease prevention campaigns are also visible around the campus.

Photo from Ateneo Law Student Council

Now, Ateneo has partnered with different organizations to donate personal protective equipment such as the Ateneo DReaM Team, the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership, Inc. and The Medical City (TMC) Cafeteria, in partnership with the ASMPH Student Council, for TMC staff meals.

The COVID-19 pandemic

Photo from Bloomberg

On November 17, 2019, the first case of COVID-19 was identified based on unpublished Chinese government data. The World Health Organization then alerted China of a pneumonia-like disease which broke out in Wuhan, Hubei province. About 11 Million people were at risk of being infected due to a coronavirus.

To date, there are about 100,000 people infected from the origin of the virus. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States identified the origin to be a seafood market for exotic animals in Wuhan.

In mid-March, the World Health Organization tagged COVID-19 as a pandemic. This is due to the number of infected persons that increased globally. The WHO also raised COVID-19 to the highest alert level because of the 50 countries affected globally.

Coronavirus is a general term for respiratory tract diseases. Typically, physicians associate them with cough, common cold, bronchitis, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the COVID-19.

Coronaviruses are common throughout the world. They can infect people and animals. Five different coronaviruses can infect people and make them sick. They usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory illness.

The Philippines caught the virus, being the first country with the first COVID 19-related death outside China. The numbers grew rapidly. As of March 18, there are 202 positive cases along with 17 deaths.

As a preventive measure, the government placed the country under a state of calamity, implementing an enhanced community quarantine in Luzon until April 14. Classes are now suspended, work is encouraged to be done at home, mass transport is banned and the only establishments allowed to open are those which provide basic necessities and health services such as hospitals, clinics and pharmacies. Increased military presence guard borders and strictly enforce home quarantine measures.

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