By Vina Medenilla
Besides Covid-19, the country has also been dealing with an education crisis. The pandemic has forced schools to close down and students to learn from home.
The government implemented distance or blended learning to help halt the spread of the virus and ensure educational continuity during the pandemic. This transition, however, leaves some students behind, especially those in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDA).
Distance learning demands space, equipment, internet connection, and other resources, which makes it more difficult for many students, educators, and families to have access to education.
Jennylin B. Carreon, 39, a faculty member of Nueva Vizcaya State University (NVSU) – Bambang Campus, has seen firsthand how Covid-19 has affected not only the health industry but also the education sector.
“Though it was a modular approach, the students still need to communicate with their professors through group chats, SMS, private message, teleconferencing, video, and phone calls.”
She continues, “With the classes that I handled during the semester, many of my students complained about slow internet connection and allowance to buy cellphone load.”
Some of Carreon’s students have jobs to make ends meet, and the remote learning setup has placed more pressure on them. Between 60 and 70 percent of the university’s student body are Indigenous People (IPs). Most of them reside in areas that have very limited to no access to the internet.
Carreon would hear stories that her students have to climb a mountain or a hill and walk for an hour or two just to catch a signal. “With these predicaments, I pondered on how to help my students,” she said.
This professor, who enjoys gardening, started a campaign “seedlings for a cause,” which means that each seedling purchased from her garden enables a student to have money for mobile data.
She began selling seedlings of herbs, ornamentals, fruit trees, and other edible crops in October 2020 and has generated more than P10,000 from donations and seedling sales.
This fundraising campaign has also motivated others to pitch in. Carreon shared, “One co-teacher sponsored cellphone load for 10 students, one former college classmate sponsored one student for his cellphone load for the whole month, a former student sponsored cellphone load worth P1,000 and a neighbor who has a cellphone load business volunteered the loading of their cellphones without charge.”
All the proceeds were used to fund the mobile load of her students throughout the semester. Every week, a P50 cellphone load was given away to at least five students from all of her six classes.When she came back to report to the university in May 2020, Carreon also prepared and shared a bunch of seed packets with friends, acquaintances, and colleagues.
“This seedling for a cause gave a sense of fulfillment. Kindness and empathy to the plight of the students really matter.”
Carreon’s passion for teaching and gardening inspired this effort. Despite these trying and changing times, she carries on sharing produce, seedlings, and other garden output with others both inside and outside the institution.
Photos from Jennylin B. Carreon’s Instagram account
Read more: Nueva Vizcaya family weathers the pandemic through their food forest