A local official from the education department was called out for laughing at an interview when she mentioned students reportedly taking their own life due to alleged issues with modular learning.
Schools Division Superintendent Vilma Eda from Laoag City’s Department of Education appeared in an interview with Sirib Express, the youth program of the provincial government of Ilocos Norte, on December 11.
The interview, streamed through the group’s Facebook page for one hour and around 19 minutes, tackled education and the new learning system in the time of the coronavirus pandemic.
The initiative was part of the 2nd Ilocos Norte Youth Convention with the theme “Youth Engagement for Global Action.”
Eda, being DepEd Laoag’s official, was asked about programs launched by the education department in terms of protecting the student’s mental health well-being, especially amid a pandemic.
She responded that they have already conducted webinars with teachers about mental health issues before the academic year officially opened. Similar webinars were also conducted for parents and learners as well.
“Online naman ‘yun so pwede nilang balik-balikan, panoorin kung gusto nila, and then there are also a series we have already lined up, series of webinars on psychosocial well-being,” Eda added.
The official said that DepEd as a whole likewise conducted a “mental health psychological service” before the opening of the classes which lasted for “maybe two weeks.”
Eda then implied in the interview that despite the initiatives, supposed reports of students taking their own life due to modular learning problems surfaced.
“Tapos meron pa rin ‘yung parang nag-suicide daw dahil sa module,” she said to Sirib Express with a laugh.
Her comment, which can be viewed around the video’s 49:41 timestamp, caught the attention of the online community as some perceived it to be insensitive to the plight of students undergoing the distance learning setup.
“Suicide is a sensitive topic. And also, it’s not funny. Why did you laugh? It’s not needed naman. Please be sensitive. DepEd official ka pa man din. Yucks,” a Twitter user said in response to Eda’s part of the interview.
“Huh? Making fun of someone who committed suicide??? How insensitive of you LMAO (laughing my a** off) DepEed official pero hindi edukada. Nakakahiya ka. smh (shaking my head),” another online user wrote.
Reports of students allegedly taking off their own lives have surfaced in Alcoy and in Toledo City, Cebu.
An incident was also reported in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.
Some linked their deaths to supposed problems related to the current distance learning setup but DepEd-Region VII denied the claims following investigations.
The main office of the education department also called for the public to refrain from immediately connecting the deaths to distance learning as well.
“Isang sensitibo at kumplikadong usapin ang suicide. Kaya naman, nais naming ipanawagan na itigil ang pagkonekta nito sa mga modyul o sa distance learning,” DepEd said in a statement last October.
“Nakatanggap na kami ng mga ulat mula sa kinauukulan, maging mga pahayag ng mga pamilya, at mga inisyal na imbestigasyon ng mga kaso at wala sa alinmang insidente ang tumutukoy sa distance learning bilang pangunahing sanhi ng mga ito,” it added.
“Binabalaan din namin ang publiko sa mga grupo o indibidwal na ginagamit ang mga nasabing insidente upang siraan at isantabi ang mga pagsisikap ng Kagawaran,” the agency further said.
Following DepEd’s statement, youth group Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan challenged the agency to “prove” that the deaths were unrelated to distance learning, saying that they have monitored 20 cases of deaths “directly connected” to the issue.
The group has launched multiple campaigns against the continuation of distance learning, including calls for an “academic freeze” until January 2021, as well as “sweeping reforms in the education and telecommunications sector to ensure more inclusive learning.”
For those who may need mental support and assistance, they can reach the National Center for Mental Health through these hotlines:
0917-899-8727 (mobile), 02-7-989-8727 (landline), 155 (toll-free, landline to landline).
Individuals may also contact Hopeline, Natasha Goulbourn Foundation’s 24/7 crisis support service, through the following numbers:
0917-558-4673 (Globe), 0918-873-4673 (Smart), 02-88044673 (PLDT) and 2919 (toll-free for Globe and TM).