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SPAMAST through excellence and quality services amidst CoVid-19

SPAMAST President, Dr. Ruth S. Lucero, was invited on the "Gobyernong Balitaan Radio Program" of 91.1 Energy FM Digos from 9:15AM to 10:00AM on February 14, 2022. Ms. Benida Ramos and Ms. Carina Cayon of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA Davao del Sur & Davao Occidental) hosted the interview. Updates on SPAMAST’s limited face-to-face classes, Flexible Learning System (FLS), and Sustainable Agriculture and Fisheries Enterprises (SAFE) Project were discussed.

According to Dr. Lucero, for SPAMAST to pursue limited face-to-face classes, there is a need to comply with an institution-wide self-assessment checklist that will be evaluated by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the local government unit (LGU). The guidelines of implementation of the limited face-to-face classes are described on the CHED-DOH Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2021-004 for all private or public institutions. As of date, SPAMAST will not yet adopt limited face-to-face classes. Only a few programs like on-the-job (OJT) training and some laboratory classes will allow students to go inside the campus.

It is stated within the guidelines that participating students and teachers should be fully vaccinated. SPAMAST conducted a survey during the first semester of the school year 2021-2022 in which 3119 out of 4013 enrollees have partaken. Data of the vaccination program shows that 61% of the students who participated in the survey are already fully vaccinated – 2% of which already had their booster shots. Partially vaccinated students are close to 8% and 7% are unvaccinated. Dr. Lucero clarified that although there are students who are not yet fully vaccinated, the school will continue to cater to them through the Flexible Learning System (FLS). On the other hand, 99% of SPAMAST employees are already fully vaccinated. 

Another area of concern for the limited face-to-face classes is the “preparedness” of the facilities. SPAMAST’s laboratories, classroom buildings, and other learning facilities suffered from major succeeding earthquakes which happened from October to December 2019. Most of the buildings in Buhangin Campus were declared as “unfit” for occupancy.

The 2-year lockdown due to the CoVID-19 pandemic has given SPAMAST the opportunity to retrofit its buildings to prepare for the “new normal”.  Dr. Lucero mentioned that various facilities are constructed in SPAMAST through the congressional insertion and initiatives of Congresswoman Lorna B. Bandigan. These include the new gym and the dormitories on the SPAMAST main campus. Various facilities were also created on the Buhangin Campus which include the new gyms, dormitories, canteen, and comfort rooms.

SPAMAST also internally funded some of its facilities. These include the Tissue Culture Laboratory, 4-Classroom Make-shift Building, and the Business Center in the Buhangin Campus. Although the state-of-the-art 3-story classroom building was already turned over on the main campus, construction is still ongoing for some of the new buildings and facilities – an additional measure towards SPAMAST’s decision to decline the adoption of limited face-to-face classes. 

Dr. Lucero emphasized that the institution has remained resilient to continue providing quality education. When asked about the inconsistency of internet connection in the province, in relation to the FLS program, Dr. Lucero stated that the instructors of SPAMAST are constantly finding ways to deliver instruction to students with the help of the utilization of technology. Educational modules have been created for programs and subjects for the students. These modules are being strategically delivered to different drop-off or convergence points in Sta Maria, Malita, Don Marcelino, Jose Abad Santos, Sarangani, and Balut Island in respective specific schedules with the help of the LGU. Student outputs are being submitted to these drop-off points as well. Open e-resources (OER) are being supplemented to students that cannot access modules. 

Dr. Lucero also mentioned that CHED granted a 25-million grant to support SPAMAST in attaining the “SMART Campus” project for the procurement and enhancement of ICT facilities. This is in line with the institution’s drive to gear towards the “Fourth Industrial Revolution on Education (FIRE)” – an objective and goal to integrate artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, and cloud computing technology on the SPAMAST’s strategic innovations in the educational processes in order to develop future-ready individuals.

To further extend support to students amidst the pandemic, scholarships from CHED are being provided. Scholars receive stipends and subsidies to financially support their education. Disbursing officers personally deliver said stipends to scholars who have difficulty to go to the campus due to limited mobility and granular lockdowns. Students have acclimated to the new process with the help of online and offline consultations, orientations, communications, and brochures. Counselors were made available through online platforms as well as on mobile to provide guidance to students. 

The “Sustainable Agriculture and Fishery Enterprises (SAFE) on Fish and other Fishery-Based Products Processing Incubation Hub” in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) was also tackled during the interview. This is an ongoing 40-Million project granted by the Department of Agriculture in which 20 million is allotted for the building and cold storage while the remaining half is for purchases of equipment, vehicle, seed capital, and training for future beneficiaries. Beneficiaries include producer organizations (POs) of the agriculture and fisheries sector, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), women’s organizations, small and medium-term entrepreneurs, OJT students, K-12 internship students, and student researchers. 

Let not the health risks brought about by the CoVID-19 stop us from performing our functions as an academic institution. Let’s learn to live with the virus, coexist with the virus, and evolve with the virus. SPAMAST will continue to deliver quality education, and may we be remembered always with our tagline – above and beyond in achieving excellence.” This was part of Dr. Lucero’s empowering closing remarks during the interview. She also expressed gratitude to the PIA and 91.1 Energy FM for the opportunity that allowed her to provide updates on the pressing concerns, challenges, and the current academic status of SPAMAST.

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