The first Christian Brothers in the Philippines welcoming little boys to the sunlit-covered grounds of their new school on Calle Nozaleda in Paco, Manila: that June 16, 1911 moment still sparks wonder and gratitude for us in the Lasallian community. For how can we not, given everything that has happened?
We recently remembered that day 109 years ago and traced our Lasallian presence in the Philippines: marked with triumphs and tribulations. Those Brothers brought to our shores the legacy of St. John Baptist de La Salle from France. They crossed continents to establish their first school here in Manila, gained a foothold as a leading academic institution in the country, and influenced the various sectors of Philippine society through the lives, projects and values of Lasallian graduates and mentors.
Today, we continue to forge ahead despite an uncertain future, driven by the spirit of faith, zeal for service, and communion in mission. In this extraordinary time, the challenges for De La Salle University (DLSU) would have been too much to bear if not for the collective efforts of the members of our Lasallian community. The swirling force of the pandemic failed to pull us from our conviction of delivering quality education no matter the difficulties that one encounters: personal, professional, or social.
In keeping with our passion for quality, holistic education, we arrived at a common strategy, one that engaged the members of our community towards adopting an alternate mode of education. It meant improving and strengthening a program, which DLSU had actually initiated more than 10 years ago, i.e., technology-enabled or blended learning.
Through “Lasallians Remote and Engaged Approach for Connectivity in Higher Education” (or simply, Lasallians REACH), DLSU set up the most viable and flexible alternative for our students. It emphasizes the importance of engagement between faculty and students. Unlike fully machine-assisted online learning, the University’s remote learning is faculty-directed and facilitated, using an online platform to ensure quality education. This means that the faculty will be teaching and assisting their students every step of the way, with activities and assessments conducted online and offline.
In the early days of quarantine and on distance learning mode, much of the communication we received from our various stakeholders showed a lot of anxiety. But the collective desire to respond to the needs of our students and their parents prevailed. To assuage fears and help soften the impact of the pandemic and the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the university provided financial packages, including rebates on tuition, miscellaneous fees, and the unused portion of special fees, for Term 2 (January-April 2020). For Term 3, which started this July, we offered a 20-percent discount on tuition, and as much as 32.7-percent discount on miscellaneous fees. Furthermore, DLSU established the free electives program, giving students an opportunity to enroll in an elective course from a discipline of their choice for free.
For Academic Year 2020-2021, which will begin in October, the University will not implement an increase in tuition and fees. Moreover, a tuition discount of 10 percent will be given on Term 1, and a five-percent tuition discount on Term 2.
As part of DLSU’s connectivity efforts, our faculty and staff started receiving financial support for connectivity upgrade starting July, for an initial period of three months. Likewise, they are offered a soft, interest-free loan for a laptop, made available by DLSU at cost. Education packages are also being arranged for students to support their online learning requirements.
We are concurrently providing support for those who are experiencing stress, anxiety, and other psychological issues during this time by offering free counselling services through the Office of Counselling and Career Services and the Psychology Department’s Telepsychology for the Lasallian Community.
Even with the government’s gradual relaxation of quarantine guidelines in the National Capital Region, DLSU highly encourages its community members to work from home. Classes will be purely online until August and will gradually shift to blended mode in September, if conditions allow.
We have been regularly issuing health and safety guidelines through our various communication channels. We have also started conducting this July the Return to Campus Orientation, which highlights hygiene and physical distancing guidelines for everyone within the university’s premises.
The university and our community members, friends, and partners have undertaken measures to help keep the university operations afloat while extending financial assistance to support those who have been affected by the pandemic.
In April, DLSU had an early release of salaries for its full-time and part-time employees. For the concessionaire staff and construction workers assigned by their companies to service DLSU and who have lost their source of income, we launched the project called Lasallians CARE; DLSU also provided the equivalent of one-month’s salary and/or emergency financial assistance to them.
“ These times remind us that we are a people of hope. Despite the uncertainties and challenges, we will forge ahead on new pathways in the service of our people. ”
Likewise, our vice chancellors and vice presidents agreed to donate the whole amount or a percentage of their one-month honorarium, on top of their personal pledges to other DLSU donation drives. We also heard of initiatives by our students and mentors to help disadvantaged groups in their neighborhoods, to frontliners in clinics, hospitals and checkpoints.
Our own campus became a loving and comfortable home to frontliners as well as to a number of homeless in Manila. For the health care workers of the Philippine General Hospital, we launched The Safe Shelters Project, which raised in cash and in-kind donations worth more than P1.8 million. We joined De La Salle Philippines’ initiative Kada-Uno, which provided food and shelter to the homeless.
Amid the pandemic, we remained rooted in our mission. Our faculty members have undertaken research projects and other initiatives that offer solutions to manage the impact of the pandemic. And, last but not least, our students and alumni who come from different fields — business, arts, sports, law, engineering, education, science, and technology — raised funds needed to combat the effects of the pandemic, united in spirit with compassionate and generous colleagues. These times remind us that we are people of hope. Despite the uncertainties and challenges, we will forge ahead on new pathways in the service of our people.
Edited by Charmie Joy Pagulong