When the COVID-19 pandemic drastically transformed the educational landscape around the globe earlier this year, Filipinos had little choice but to accept the fact that much of teaching and learning in the foreseeable future would have to be done digitally. While this transition, as described in a Memorandum of the UP Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs (OVPAA) dated June 4, 2020, had long been prepared for, no doubt present circumstances accelerated its implementation by at least a few years. [Related: UPCAT qualifiers enrolling in UP can expect the “new normal” of remote learning]
A key concern of the University regarding this digital shift is equalizing access to knowledge for students, given the tendency of technology to exacerbate pre-existing socio-economic divisions between the financially more and the less capable. This concern spurred the creation of efforts such as the #KaagapayUP project to bridge this divide and help financially challenged students have a fighting chance to do online classes on more even terms. [Related: Kaagapay sa Pag-aaral ng mga Iskolar ng Bayan FAQs]
Several UP alumni, including Julliano Fernando ‘Jules’ Guiang, a National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) alumnus and graduate student, were similarly struck by the inequities highlighted by the pandemic. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Guiang, who is also a journalist, had launched The Hatch Hub, a co-working space on Maginhawa Street, Sikatuna Village, Quezon City with his friends. At first, they envisioned it to be an affordable establishment where students and professionals could study, meet, work, and hold events.
Forging a partnership
With the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Guiang and his partners realized the need to shift their focus. While other businesses were struggling to keep afloat, they knew that The Hatch Hub had the potential to help at least UP students nearby to meet the challenges of the coming academic year.
“Moving forward,” Guiang said, “I thought, why not offer [The Hatch Hub] for students who don’t have a conducive space with strong internet connection?”
With the formal launch of the #KaagapayUP campaign, Guiang contacted the UP Office of the Vice President for Public Affairs and it only took a Zoom meeting and a few emails for the collaboration to take shape.
The Hatch Hub, as it was originally designed, is an establishment where, for the cost of P50 an hour, a customer can get a personal space to work in, with free water, coffee, and power outlets (other services and packages are available). Through #KaagapayUP, Hatch Hub will become one of the University’s partner organizations where students can use the space and its services for their online classes.
“Since our space is not that big, and since we’re following health protocols, we can only admit at most 10 students at a time,” Guiang said.
Moreover, Guiang also offered The Hatch Hub to be a drop-off point where generous UP alumni can donate their laptops and other gadgets for the use of UP students. “I am also thinking of tapping other UP alumni who can chip in financial assistance so we can cover other expenses, such as WiFi fees, electricity bill, water and coffee,” he added.
Serving the people
Once all the details have been ironed out, Guiang and his partners hope to launch the service at the beginning of academic year (AY) 2020-2021. “We will be setting up an online registration where students can reserve their slots,” he clarified. He also said that he has been contacting and coordinating with similar businesses this 2020 and will also pitch similar ideas to them.
What inspired him to readily offer this service at a time when most other businesses are seeking to downsize or otherwise find ways to be profitable? “As a public administration student, I always bear in mind the ‘public’,” Guiang clarified.
“I fully understand the challenges our students are facing right now, so I thought, why not share what we have at the moment? At least on my end, a decent space that students can use for their remote learning. After all, our battle cry is to ‘serve the people’. In my case, this is the least I can offer right now.”
(This was originally posted on the UP System website on September 2, 2020)