Pandemic Pressures: It’s Not Just A Matter of Livelihood
by Leigh Fuentes, CARE Philippines
Although the COVID-19 Pandemic has exerted multiple shocks all over the globe and on all types of communities, certain populations remain the most vulnerable.
Nanay Guillerma, 56, is a mother of five children. She works as a cook at a small, local canteen. Luckily, her employers were quite considerate to workers like her, even extending some supplies to help underscored needs amidst a struggling economy, especially when limited by the pandemic measures and guidelines in the country. However, this does not mean that Nanay Guillerma is confident enough to say she can make ends meet for her and her family.
With all five of her kids at home sue to school closures and age, age limitations on people allowed outside of their home, and the implementation of online learning, it is indubitable that her load of unpaid care and domestic work has significantly increased, not to mention, she is a single mother. Forced to undergo distance learning to continue school, her children are not only dealing with the transition to learning lessons at home and online but have also seemingly reached a cul-de-sac. Out of five siblings, four of Nanay Guillerma’s children need to attend school through online or digital mediums, but Nanay Guillerma’s family only has two cell phones available. They have no other gadgets that may be used for academics purposes.
“Kapag natatanong [ng guro] yung bunso ko kung bakit hindi siya nakakapasok, ang nasasagot na lang niya ay ‘cell phone, Ma’am. Wala.’”
[“There are times when my youngest gets asked [by teachers] why there are times that he is unable to attend online classes. All he can say is ‘Ma’am, we don’t have a cellphone.’”
With her income barely covering rent and other daily needs like food and supplies, Nanay Guillerma also constantly worries about her kids’ progress in school. She says that although her two older daughters are mature enough to adjust and cope, she regularly gets stressed out by the additional help her younger children need with school work. As an adaptive measure to a lack of gadgets, her kids’ teachers have encouraged her to at least assure that they can study and accomplish learning modules at home. However, Nanay Guillerma also worries about her capability to assist in academics especially when lessons in the curriculum begin to get more advanced, “hanggang first year high school lang naman ako,” she says. [“I also went to school only until my first year in high school.”] Moreover, she also has bad eyes and constantly finds it difficult to read and write without glasses, an item she does not even have on her person. This is one of the reasons she was accompanied by her daughter during the Together for Her Multipurpose Cash Assistance in Caloocan City.
According to an estimate from UNESCO, as of March 2020, 89% of the world’s student population (children and youth) are out of school due to COVID-19 closures, including 743 million who are girls. Students have been forced to shift online despite large parts of the said population in low-tech or no-internet areas. With over 1.5 billion students at home due to the pandemic, there is an increased demand for unpaid childcare and domestic work at home, which in turn, impairs their time and capability to accept and carry out paid work, most especially with jobs that cannot be carried out remotely or from home.
With all these worries constantly running through Nanay Guillerma’s mind, she says that it gives her recurring headaches and even sometimes makes her forget to add certain ingredients to recipes when she is cooking at the canteen, resulting in a scolding at work. She worries that in the long run, it might cost her her job.
“Ano na ang kakainin namin kapag nangyari iyon? Ano na ang pangsuporta namin sa buwan-buwang pangangailangan namin?”
[“What will happen to my family then, if I lose my job? How are we supposed to get support for our monthly needs?”]