(Photo grabbed from the UST Political Science Forum.)

PROLONGED quarantine has affected the mental health of the youth while civic engagements and student activism increased online, Thomasian researchers said in a webinar series titled “QuaranTEEN.”

Asst. Prof. Dennis Coronacion, chairman of the Department of Political Science, said faculty members conducted research on the problems the Filipino youth were facing because of the pandemic. 

“According to the International Labor Organization 2020 (ILO 2020) global survey on the youth and the Covid-19 pandemic, the problems created by the pandemic for the youth are pervasive, systematic, deep and disproportionate,” Coronacion said.

Data from the ILO showed that anxiety or depression was “probable” in 16 .7 percent of the youth, aged 18 to 29, and “possible” for 50.2 percent.

“Mental well-being during the [Covid-19] crisis is shown to be correlated to some extent with age, with younger groups experiencing poorer well-being outcomes… young people (aged 18 to 29) disproportionally reported feeling never or rarely relaxed,” the ILO report stated. 

“These results are likely to be the result of the widespread school and workplace closures affecting young people, as well as worried related to their health and that of family and loved ones,” the report stated. 

Prof. Allan de Guzman of the Research Center for Social Sciences and Education (RCSSEd) said the quarantine might have dangerous consequences on the youth.

“While staying home is a safe practice, once it is prolonged, it might also give negative effects [among young people] whose development is at stake,” de Guzman said. 

De Guzman also said the government should assist families by identifying programs that could support the youth.

“The government through the different agencies must be able to identify support programs online or face-to-face to better, of course, support the Filipino youth during this difficult time,” he said. 

Resilience among the youth

Political Science faculty member Froilan Calilung said the pandemic would bear positive effects on the youth in the long run.

“I think there will be some positive effects, I guess resilience is one of them. In the monograph research that we published, one chapter is solely devoted to how the Filipino youth is able to rise over the pandemic,” he told the Varsitarian.

Calilung said the youth were able to cope with and explore things and activities they did not know or have done, like engaging in online businesses.

“Having experienced this situation at least in their lifetime has taught them valuable lessons that they can take with them in their lifelong journey,” he added.

Calilung said the pandemic also helped in strengthening the Filipino family as it created ample spaces or avenues for parents and siblings to mingle and communicate on a personal level, even out of necessity.

“Lockdown became a way for parents to ‘get to know’ again their children and for the children especially the teens to open up communication lines with their parents,” he added.

Prof. Joel Adamos of the RCSSEd said Facebook emphasized the youth’s civic engagements through online means. 

“Facebook is a tool to learn and participate in civic activities; it directs links between youth’s internet use and civic engagement, and develops positive traits in connection, competence and contribution,” he said. 

Adamos also said there was a need to develop and strengthen digital citizenship skills among the youth which could be emphasized in the “Media and Information Literacy” subject in the senior high school curriculum.

“The youth needs to be able to transcend from the regular use of Facebook to purposive use of Facebook and this may be done with the help of schools, parents and communities,” he said. 

Calilung said universities should enhance students’ digital citizenship by improving the digital infrastructure as connectivity depends on both software and hardware.

“Investments in the form of software procurement that will enable seamless and effective conduct of studies even on a digital platform is a must,” he said.

Surge in activism

Anthony Divinagracia, a political science lecturer, said youth activism surged during the quarantine because inequalities became more apparent.

“Limited mobility and connectivity issues affected their school and family lives, which to them redounds to an issue of curtailment of certain individual rights that they were enjoying before the onset of the pandemic,” Divinagracia told the Varsitarian

Divinagracia, a former Varsitarian editor in chief, commended Thomasians for calling for a one-week suspension of classes due to the onslaught of typhoons which the University heeded.

“It is a kind of activism that tested their moral judgment and how personal values can be translated to look after the welfare of fellow Thomasians who were greatly devastated by these series of calamities,” he said. 

Divinagracia said the youth he interviewed were aware of the policies being implemented by the government and saw them as ineffective.

“Duterte’s military-led solution to the Covid-19 crisis largely was viewed by the respondents as a ‘dramatization of the crisis’… The analysis of the data revealed that the respondents were very much aware of the government’s response, not just through mere enumeration,” he said. 

Divinagracia said the youth’s awareness was due to being more exposed to the problems, but he warned of “confirmation bias.”

“While they are pushing for legitimate concerns as students and individuals, some of them may also tread the path of confirmation bias, or simply choosing the details that affirm their personal beliefs and judgment,” he said. 

QuaranTEEN was a three-day webinar series conducted by The Political Science Forum and the RCSSEd through Zoom meetings from Nov. 23 to 35.


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