Addressing wellness in the education sector in the face of a global pandemic

By Ms. Erika Marie S. Santelices, AUN Intern Interns

Last August 2020, the Commission on Higher Education Regional Office 1 (CHEDRO1) of the Philippines, along with the ASEAN University Network, held a webinar with different heads of member universities sharing how they have addressed the pandemic in terms of providing quality education and aid to their respective stakeholders. Among the resource speakers was Br. Raymundo Suplido, FSC, President of De La Salle University, who tackled the importance of addressing the wellness of the university’s stakeholders, namely the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents.

Br. Raymundo first listed the different effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to everyone such as economic and financial losses, stressful quarantine conditions, and the like. He focused mainly on the aspect of “wellness” as one of the main challenges in education as all institutions have shifted to online and blended learning. He refers to “wellness” as “the state of complete physical, emotional and social well-being of individuals, and not merely the fact of not having a disease.” (https://www.globalwellnessday.org/about/what-is-wellness/) He stressed that in the process of institutions trying to figure out different strategies on running online operations, they may tend to overlook the state of well-being of their stakeholders. He also enumerated the ways these institutions have responded to the global pandemic that would aid in the “wellness quotient” of their constituents such as providing telemental health services, holding webinars focused on how to cope with the stresses of the pandemic, offering virtual career services, shifting to online culture and arts programs, and the like.

For a student, and one of the definite stakeholders of De La Salle University, adjusting to the shift of all activities and classes to a full online mode has not been entirely easy, especially in terms of having a support system that would cater to the needs specific to different types of individuals coming from different strands of class or life. It is true that institutions may overlook the psychological and social well-being of their stakeholders in pursuit of finding strategies in order to sustain their respective operations; but universities, as well as other institutions in the education sector, should make this challenge a priority for them to address.

In addition to the responses that Br. Raymundo listed, universities should also work towards even providing technological or financial aid to those stakeholders that are not necessarily privileged enough to possess gadgets or even have a stable internet connection, given that everything nowadays is done online, and since fast internet speeds are not available in many areas in the Philippines. Also, a large portion of the population in Higher Education Institutions are scholars, or individuals coming from the lower middle class or even the lower class. Telemental health services should also be strengthened in terms of accessibility, and relevant programs can be offered tailored to the coping abilities of different groups of people. Overall, all institutions must strive in assisting their respective stakeholders as this will also affect not only the productivity of their day-to-day operations, but the effective achievement of their educational goals.