Manila Bulletin

Leyte town students need to walk 4 kms just to get cellphone signal


TACLOBAN CITY – Learning under the “new normal” has been a challenge for both students and educators as they try to cope with the distance learning methods. Despite adopting modular-based learning in areas with no stable Internet

connection, students still need Internet access to communicat­e with their teachers and for research.

Jaira Crystal Paza, a 17-year-old Grade 12 student from Mahagnao, an upland village in Burauen, Leyte, needs to hike at least 4 kilometers with her friends to get to a neighborin­g town just to be able to access the Internet.

Jaira is currently enrolled at the Hibunawan National High School, where she is on top of her class. She is an aspiring flight attendant.

For a simple query, they have to walk to Lanawan village in MacArthur town since it is the nearest area that has access to a mobile phone signal.

The nearby Cansiboy village in their town also has cellphone signal. However, they prefer to walk to the next town because it is just 5 km. away.

“My friends and I, including other students here in Mahagnao, need to go to Lanawan whenever we need to do some research or ask for clarificat­ions from our teachers in our chat group. We're lucky if we get a reply instantly. Sometimes we need to wait for 2-3 hours to get the answers that we need,” she shared.

Jaira and her friends would help each other in answering their modules, especially the lower years even if they came from different schools in Burauen and La Paz towns. They would list down all their questions before they walk to Lanawan for an hour at least twice a week.

“We do not know anyone there. We usually leave after lunch and head home at 3 p.m. so we would reach home before nighttime. It's tiring but at least we have friends who walk with us," Friza Joy Agrava, a 15-year-old Grade 10 student of Burauen National High School (BNHS) said.

Jaira and her friends would also make use of their time in Lanawan to download learning materials or read online references to reinforce their learnings, especially that the teachers are not with them to explain some concepts just like in a face-toface setup.

Pearly Ann Agrava, a 15-year-old Grade 11 student of BNHS, considers her classmates who have access to cellphone signal lucky since having a cellphone alone is already a luxury for them, and yet, they have to spend ₱10-₱50 for load which most of their parents cannot afford to shell out for them.

Although they are thankful that they do not have to spend ₱600 monthly for their fare to their schools which is eight to 18 kms away, they still prefer to attend face-to-face classes when the coronaviru­s disease (COVID-19) pandemic is over.

About 100 high school students in Mahagnao, one of the farthest villages from the town proper, receive their printed modules from their schools with the help of village officials and parent-leaders.

Mahagnao is the home of the famous Mahagnao Volcano and Natural Park, a 635-hectare forestland surroundin­g Mahagnao Lake, which has an elevation of 860 meters. It’s cool environmen­tal condition has earned it the sobriquet as the “Little Baguio” of Burauen.

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