December 10, 2022

School officials in Baguio City have acceded to the petition initiated by the student governments of Saint Louis University, University of the Cordilleras, University of Baguio, and University of the Philippines Baguio for an academic break to give time to students and faculty members to take a breather from the demands of online learning.

In a meeting with city officials led by Mayor Benjamin Magalong, Rep. Marquez Go, city council committee on education chair Councilor Vladimir Cayabas, and Sangguniang Kabataan Federation president Levy Lloyd Orcales, school officials have agreed that a break is needed to de-stress from adjustments in the new learning setup but they took exception to insinuations that the recent cases of self harm were largely due to the students’ inability to cope with changes in a new learning system. 

These rumors circulated online with SLU being named as having seven or 10 students taking their lives supposedly due to difficulty in coping with academic requirements. Some posts even identified the student. 

SLU Vice President for Academic Affairs Robert Arguelles belied these reports.

He said one case was reported by the family to the school administration but they could not establish if the case was due to pressures in fulfilling academic requirements as the family declined to give details about the incident.

School officials also denied allegations made via social media that they did not promptly act on requests for an academic break.

School officials who attended the meeting said they needed time to deliberate on the request of students considering the differing academic calendars that each school follows, adjustments on school requirements, and consultation with the Commission on Higher Education.

Faculty members also had to be consulted as the break would entail modifications in their lesson plans.

They also stressed that they have institutionalized services that cater to the wellness of students. 

The candlelighting ceremony of students of SLU reiterating their petition for an academic break trended on social media last week, triggering calls from the community for a citywide academic break.

In response, city officials organized a meeting with student, school, and CHED officials where it was agreed for school administrators to submit within two weeks to concerned city offices their proposed activities and schedules during the academic break.

Go said there should be a continuing dialogue between administration and students to thresh out concerns regarding the mental wellness of students and faculty members. He said apart from academic break, there should be long-term interventions addressing mental health concerns within the academe.

Magalong also advised those who posted unverified data about the number of students who tried to harm themselves to be careful about their posts as this resulted in panic in the community.

Orcales, on the other hand, said the SKF is ready to extend wellness services to the youth of Baguio.

A representative of the Anxiety and Depression Support Group of the City Health Services Office has advised school officials not to be dismissive of complaints about academic requirements affecting their mental health, as some concerns may be valid.

Meanwhile, Benguet State University will implement an academic break in its three campuses from Nov. 8 to 13.

In a university memorandum issued Nov. 2, BSU President Felipe Comila has appealed to the faculty members to consciously assist the students in coping with the new learning method.

“Let us continuously work to make our teaching materials and requirements lighter but deliver the same quality of education,” he said.  – Rimaliza A. Opiña