FEATURE | We are not your Guinea Pigs

Squeal. Oink. Snort. The last three words of the guinea pigs as the trial begins… 

Someone is called a guinea pig when the person is subjected to experimentation where others refuse to be. As we live in today’s education system, we give life to this idiom as reflections of reality. We became guinea pigs, squealing as we hold on to our dear life, the unsparing scientists caged us as they conceal the pitching screams and muffled noises. 

In every trial, some of the guinea pigs have died, some still squirming yet dog-tired. The immense strain and the unbearable fatigue are barely possible to be survived. As the pandemic emerged, everything became a series of attempts and experimentation but the scientists will never put themselves on the verge of the unknown, thus the education leaders would never understand the struggles of a Filipino student. 

However, if a guinea pig dies, who would remember them? They are just mere specimen numbers for the scientists. If they die, they fail, if they survive, they succeed. But for the fellow pigs, their neighbors have faces and they remember their names all too well. 

Case 1, Melanie Trinidad. She was a victim of a fire incident after trying to save her laptop containing her academic requirements. Amidst a life-threatening scenario, her mind was projected to the idea of failing her studies and saving her only means of studying. The current mode of learning has deteriorated the minds of students by injecting themselves with the fact of doing anything, even risky sacrifices to avoid being left behind. After her commemoration and being plastered in banner news stories, her name became a number. Putting in the statistics of students whose minds are pivoted in studying over surviving.

Her name has gradually been forgotten after the sensation of her story has expired. When a guinea pig has a special trait to share, that’s when the scientists began being empathetic. Now that Melanie’s heart-wrenching encounter is done being romanticized, universities are also finished with their disguised compassion. 

Case 2, students of Saint Louis University. Another student has taken life into his own hands last October 30, adding to the unverified incidents of suicide, because of burdening workloads and heavy academic tasks. A student named Rin Payno said that experiencing mental breakdowns and extreme burnout has become a normative encounter of a Louisian, yet the school administration turns a blind eye to their student’s screams for ease. 

Two years ago, Saint Louis University experimented with various ways to modify the learning set-up as if students were mere guinea pigs waiting to be tested. Some of them weren’t financially ready and some weren’t mentally prepared. When a guinea pig wails for help, it’s an indication that the experimentation is working. How loud would it take for the universities to listen? How gruesome would it end for them to act? How many more guinea pigs would be sacrificial lambs for a trial that has failed before it even began. 

Students of SLU clamored for the administration’s accountability of the deaths of their fellow schoolmates. Now that number is hiking, the university’s call for action is to implement a Wellness Break for three days. As they say, you can never heal in the same environment you got sick. This applies to the current situation of the students of SLU as they demand an academic break, ease their workloads and prioritize their mental health, but they received a masked act of compassion and genuinity. 

Case 3, Isko and Iska. Over the years, we are so caught up with the idea that in the quest for quality of education, students should purposely suffer as this is believed to be the pathway of understanding the hardships of learning. We are molded in the idea that at all times, we should be resilient and obedient. We are shaped in the core ideals of ‘padayon’ because an isko never gives up, and an iska never concedes. Neither they know, suffering is a mortal antonym of learning. 

Like guinea pigs, scientists used to test them by smearing chemicals beneath their skin, so they can be physically and mentally strong. As we are the living symbols of our mantra ‘padayon’ we should always be headstrong and vigorous. This neglects our vulnerability to changes and our nature as humans- susceptible to exhaustion, prone to break down. 

The risks and obvious dangers of implementing remote learning have been there in the very first place, yet the state has never seen it coming. In a survey conducted by an educational psychologist, Liza Marie Olegario, the Philippine education system has been inclined towards traditional approaches. In an emergency state, we will never be prepared for a remote learning set-up. As the administration neglects all these ramifications, criminal negligence is the most suitable description to hold them accountable. 

This recklessness has put danger into the welfare of students well in fact, schools should be their second home. It provides a circle of irony to how unsafe and unsound students express their emotions and mental vulnerability. This cycle never ends, as long as the  system goes. 

In the recurring demands of PUPians to have academic ease and academic break, there is still no official implementation as it is believed that these two nullify each other. While every student’s mental health is deteriorating, it’s sad how a request for a setback is being a subject for an ultimatum. Just like guinea pigs, when the button is pressed, there is no turning back.

As universities turn into massive pigpens, administration leaders disguised as shepherds but are actually the scientists of their mad experimentation. They tried to vaccinate us with words of encouragement hoping for sedation, but our minds restrain as we carry weights more than ourselves. As we yell the intrusive thoughts wheeling inside our heads, they begin searching for higher dosages, to weaken our voices and to muffle our cries. As we demand a faint sight of compassion and a dash of genuine empathy, they blame it on us because we are the weak guinea pigs. 

But holding on to this system is an understatement of strength. We are not some sort of guinea pigs to be tested, we are not mere mammals to be manipulated and we are not scant animals to be abused. We are human, vulnerable to shattering into pieces and exposed to falling apart.  

“We are not your guinea pigs”, not anymore, through resistance, one day the scientists will know, slaughtering the pigs is not worth an already failed trial. One day, universities will realize sacrificing their students’ mental health is not worth the decaying education system. 

Report by Crystal Peralta
Design by Allaizah Diaz

Published by The Catalyst

Opisyal na pahayagang pang mag-aaral ng Politeknikong Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (PUP) na 34 taon nang nagsisilbi para sa interes ng mga estudyante at mamamayan.

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