[Address of Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ to the ADDU Community as Online Education at ADDU Commences. 20 April 2020.]
Our mission is from the Resurrected Lord!
As COVID 19 evolved into a pandemic affecting every nation on the globe, we have not lost sight of our mission. We have had to adjust our operation, but we have done so in fidelity to our mission. Much of this was not easy, even painful. Fully cooperating with the City Mayor and the health officials of Davao, we finished our Academic Year 2019-2020 sooner than expected. We postponed, or even cancelled, our moving-up ceremonies and graduations. And what I never thought I’d live to witness, the Archbishop of Davao cancelled public Masses. During the Holy Week worship with the Archbishop of Davao was online. At ADDU, we migrated from the beautiful, solemn liturgies in the Assumption Chapel to a simple Mass live-streamed daily for the benefit of our university community and their families.
At each Mass, we join in a Prayer for the World that the Resurrected Lord free us from the ravages of this pandemic. At each Mass, we pray that in our ADDU community we can come together in fidelity to our mission in order to make online education successful. During Holy Week we allowed ourselves to walk with the Lord on his Way of the Cross. We did not lose hope. We found new hope in understanding God’s Way of the Cross is his Way of the Resurrection.
Amidst the darkness, fear and gloom, the Lord is alive! And it is from him that we have our mission.
We affirm this even as we must now accept that the COVID 19 pandemic will be more disruptive in our lives than we earlier expected. We thought that the imposition of a community quarantine (CQ) would be over after the quarantine period. But we have meanwhile experienced that a CQ was followed by an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), and now understand that at the end of this ECQ we will not return to normal but to another re-defined CQ. The measures being taken by the City Government in consonance with the policies of the National Government are completely necessary, however painful, in the light of the lethalness of the pandemic. The world has no certain cure for COVID 19. It has yet no vaccine against it. The curves of its contagion and deaths, still mostly rising, have been similar in China, Europe, the USA and in many countries of Asia. Short of a cure and vaccine, the ravishment of this virus is yet expected to hit the developing countries with ferocity. In the Philippines, with our population today of 107 million and our health services near overwhelmed by today’s 5,878 positive cases and 387 deaths (WHO) we can only pray that we are not among the developing countries yet to be badly hit. Meanwhile, the tension between keeping people safe from the virus through physical distancing and keeping them fed through economic activity is extremely vicious. Not respecting that tension can cost the lives of millions. May the Holy Spirit guide the decisions of our government leaders, and may we all cooperate towards a common good of national survival!
We believe that the mission entrusted to us at ADDU by our Resurrected Lord continues to be valid even during these difficult times. We have only respect, admiration and gratitude for the frontliners and semi-frontliners in the world’s and the nation’s battle against the virus – doctors, nurses, health care workers, epidemiologists, scientists, hospital staff, delivery services, personnel in supermarkets, vendors in wet markets, barangay officials in checkpoints, etc. But those not on the frontlines in an ECQ battle the virus by staying home, strictly keeping physical distance and washing hands frequently. In a CQ, movement of people, work and commerce are still restricted, but allow people to carefully engage in activities that may once again put food on their tables. In this situation of shifting CQs and ECQs, ADDU’s mission shifts to a near fully online mode of university operations. This enables it to continue to engage in instruction, research and service to the community whether an ECQ or a CQ is imposed. During an ECQ, the ADDU community will work online mostly from at home. During a CQ, the ADDU community will still work online, but face-to-face interaction will augment the online instruction to the extent the CQ allows and the online instruction warrants.
In implementing this shift I am very grateful to all who under challenging CQ and ECQ conditions have worked from home to create our Primers of Academic Policies for Online Education at ADDU first on higher education level, but then also on the level of basic education for the GS, the JHS, and the SHS. I am grateful for all those who labored at adapting themselves to the online-learning platforms under the tutelage of our tireless online coaches. I am grateful for the astonishing enthusiasm and creativity that accompanied these activities. I am specially grateful to the leadership of the Samahan Central Board who entered into dialogue and partnership with the administration in order meet the concerns of the students. We have a stronger system now thanks to this dialogue. Day after tomorrow, we commence with our summer classes.
In this shift to online learning we are happy to have received the encouragement of CHED and DepEd as the City, nation and world try to understand how education can continue to be delivered under COVID 19 pandemic conditions.
At ADDU, we are ready.
Primarily because of a shared commitment to fulfill our mission even under COVID 19 conditions. Very basically for a university, it is to continue to instruct, engage in research and serve our community even if it means using appropriate technology to do so from home.
For higher education students it means to continue to learn, to pursue personal humanistic and professional development, even if it means doing so from home. For basic education learners it means continuing to acquire basic knowledge and skills, even if this must be done from home with the collaboration of a parent or responsible adult. Essential here is the free will of the students to learn, their free will to self-regulate themselves in autonomy so that they learn efficiently. The same free will is necessary for basic education learners, even as this may need to be formed, shaped and directed with the collaboration of parents or responsible adults.
For our professors, instructors and teachers it means guiding and coaching our students toward achieving not only the minimum standards of CHED and DEPED in the students’ courses of study, but coaxing and challenging them to the academic excellence that is a hallmark of Jesuit education, even if this must be done through Zoom or Facetime conversations. It means helping them to attain the credentials and competencies they need to graduate and function as ADDU sui generis leaders in society.
Of course, our systems are only human. We are not claiming they are perfect. But I am certain that in our community of ADDU administrators, staff, faculty members, students and learners, with the active collaboration of parents for the latter, we will be able to come together to solve problems and continually improve ourselves and our systems in pursuit of our mission.
We will not waste time. Time at home is not dead time. It will not be squandered. It is an opportunity for significant learning and important achievement.
As we believe the Resurrected Lord today missions us.