MANILA – The impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic on everyone’s daily life is beyond one can imagine. As the world continues to grapple with the health crisis, life must go on, and so is learning.
In the front lines of blended learning amid the pandemic are heroes without capes – teachers who find all possible means to ensure that no learner is left behind.
For Jamil Carvajal, 28, a senior high school Filipino subject teacher at the Timoteo Paez Integrated School in Manila, the pandemic has opened a once in a lifetime opportunity for him to continue honing the minds of the youth through his profession.
This was when he was selected as one of the teacher-broadcasters for ‘DepEd TV’, a program of the Department of Education which will feature lessons on various subjects both for elementary and secondary students.
In-person classes are still prohibited, prompting the department to implement a blended learning approach, with TV and radio-based instruction being one of the three main set-ups; modular and online learning as the other two options.
“May fascination ako (I have a fascination) for public speaking. Nung high school ako, lagi rin akong pinagbabalita sa Araling Panlipunan (When I was in high school, I was also asked to do newscasting in our Social Studies subject). I also had a fascination for field reporting. ‘Pag nakakita ako ng nagbabalita sa TV, haharap ako sa salamin at gagayahin ko ‘yung (When I see somebody doing the news on TV, I will imitate its) delivery,” said Carvajal, who resides in Tondo, Manila and an alumnus of Lakan Dula High School.
Carvajal took up Bachelor of Secondary Education at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila and graduated in 2012. He also worked as a teacher in his alma mater from 2013 to 2017.
From being an ordinary classroom teacher discussing the day’s lessons to his students, Carvajal will face a teleprompter and a camera being one of the agency’s faces in delivering lessons in Grade 9 Filipino to millions of students.
He believes that it is about the responsibility of delivering lessons accurately, in a way easily understood by learners.
“Siyempre tuwang-tuwa ako na natanggap ako. Pero napalitan ‘yun ng (Of course, I am happy that I was accepted. But my happiness turned to pressure) in a positive way kasi syempre sa ngayon napakabilis ng criticism (because right now, criticism comes fast). Kailangan maging responsable, accountable kami doon sa content. Sisiguruhin mo na yung ituturo mo ay tama at napapanahon (We need to be responsible and accountable for the content. You have to make sure that what you are teaching is correct and timely),” he added.
Being a product of public school education, Carvajal believes that this program of the government will help many poor but deserving students continue learning amid the pandemic.
“Ang layunin ng DepEd ay tugunan ang needs ng learners na walang pambili ng gadgets at hindi maka-afford ng maayos na internet connection. Itong ginagawa ng DepEd TV ay remedyo sa mga apprehensions at pangamba ng mga magulang na magiging imposible ang pag-aaral ngayong may pandemya (The DepEd aims to respond to the needs of the learners who cannot afford to buy gadgets or a stable internet connection. This program called DepEd TV aims to allay the apprehensions and worries of the parents about learning being impossible amid the pandemic),” he added.
Aside from being a teacher-broadcaster, Carvajal will still handle about two classes in his school. This year, he was also accepted as a part-time faculty member of the College of Education’s Filipino Department at the University of Santo Tomas.
Carvajal expressed delight over how some of his students from the university are aware of the importance of the nurturing the native language. He also gives lectures on various topics such as the “intellectualization” of the Filipino language and the preservation of native dialects in the country.
Carvajal said language is a force that binds the citizens to stand together amid the pandemic and a catalyst of learning and awareness, especially in these trying times.
“Isipin na lang natin, paano kung hindi maipababatid ang safety protocols at paalala dahil wala ang wika? Wika ang liwanag, tagapagligtas, remedyo o lunas sa mga ganitong sitwasyon. Kayang kalabanin ng wika ang pandemya. May kakayahan wika na magbigay ng kapanatagan at seguridad sa bawat isa sa atin (Think about it, how do we convey safety protocols and reminders without language. Language is the light, savior and remedy in this situation. Language can fight the pandemic. Language has the ability to give us peace of mind and security,” he said.
Giving voice to the voiceless
Carvajal also studied Filipino sign language (FSL) at the De La Salle-College of St. Benilde from 2014 to 2015. Little did he know that this endeavor will lead to greater opportunities.
“After that, I exposed myself to the deaf community. I worked as a volunteer interpreter at the Tondo Church. Exposure to the language should continue. I also learned new signs,” he added.
Carvajal completed his Masters of Arts in Filipino degree at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) last year, where he tackled FSL as his thesis topic. He won first place in an oral presentation competition on research works in teaching Filipino at the De La Salle University last year.
Believing that education should be inclusive, Carvajal is also interpreting some lessons of the DepEd TV for the deaf.
“Sinesenyas ng mga deaf, paano kung wala kaming (The deaf says in signs, what if we don’ have) access to information, pwede kaming magkasakit, pwede kaming mamatay dahil di kami nabibigyan ng impormasyon dahil walang (we can get sick, we can die because we don’t get information because there is no) interpreter. Paano ang mundo nila, paano ang buhay nila. Mabubuhay sila sa panganib at sa takot sa gitna ng pandemya (What will happen to their world, to their lives? They will live in danger and fear amid the pandemic),” he added.
In 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law Republic Act 11106 or the FSL Act as the national sign language of the Filipino deaf.
Under the law, FSL will be the official sign language of the government in all transactions involving the deaf and mandate its use in schools, broadcast media and workplaces.
With the pandemic taking a toll on the livelihood of many Filipinos, Carvajal said actions speak louder than words in terms of helping the needy.
Through a simple Facebook post, he was able to raise funds to help displaced jeepney drivers in Tondo, Manila who took to the streets to beg for alms as public transport was suspended due to the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.
“Wala naman sa kanila ang may gusto nito. Pero no choice sila eh, wala silang kapital para magsimula ng negosyo, sinong tatanggap sa kanila sa ganitong panahon (None of them wants to do this. But they have no choice, they don’t have the capital to start a business). But at the least, I did something concrete to help them. It’s not enough that you sympathize with them. You did something to help them,” he added.
If there is a will, there is a way
Carvajal believes that the continuity of learning depends on the willingness of students with the support of their parents.
“Kaysa maglaro lang ng gadgets, gamitin natin ang ibang platforms para matuto. May mga online course. Kailangan lang ‘yung commitment, ‘yung willingness na matuto. Sana maunawaan ‘yun ng mga magulang na may chance na matuto pa rin sa ganitong panahon (Instead of playing with gadgets, let us use other platforms to learn. There are online courses. What is needed is commitment and the willingness to learn. I hope the parents will understand that there is still a chance to learn at these times),” he added.
He also urged his fellow teachers to continue improving their learning modules and teaching techniques as their efforts will not be in vain.
For Carvajal, the measure of how effective a teacher in the profession lies in how he/she made a difference in the lives of the students.
“Sabi nila, ‘Sir, na-miss namin ung boses mo na ginigising ‘yung kaluluwa namin’. Tapos ‘yung tawanan, ung kulitan, pakikipagkaibigan sa mga estudyante, ‘yun ‘yung kahit paano ay gantimpala mo na sa sarili mo pag nakikita mong na-satisfy sila sa lesson at may natutunan sila (They told me, ‘Sir, we miss your voice that awakens our souls’. And then the laughter the funny moments and the friendship with the students, those things are your reward to yourself whenever you see them satisfied with the lesson and they learn something),” he added. (PNA)