Frontline Workers in UP Pampanga during the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Transition to the Blended Learning Modality
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced educational institutions in the Philippines and abroad to undertake reskilling and upskilling of their faculty members and lecturers but there is a common perception that their frontline workers or administrative staff are being left out in these efforts. This study investigated how the frontline workers of the University of the Philippines Diliman Extension Program in Pampanga (UP Pampanga) dealt with the disruption brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to a blended learning modality. The theory of street-level bureaucracy by Michael Lipsky was used as the study’s framework. The qualitative data needed for the study were collected through interviews with all 15 staff members of UP Pampanga with the aid of a guide questionnaire. The interview responses were summarized in a spreadsheet and the modal responses were used in identifying emerging themes and in answering the study’s research question. The study found that UP Pampanga’s frontline workers dealt with the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to a blended learning odality by exercising moderate discretion in the execution of their tasks and in rationing services. They possess the characteristics and work conditions or problems of streetlevel bureaucrats, particularly resource scarcity, and the relatively little guidance they receive from state university officials. The study recommends: (1) observing fairness in dealing with all the staff regardless of employment status and place of residence; (2) allowing the staff to have flexibility in operations such as taking exceptions to impractical and costly rules; (3) reskilling and upskilling of staff that go beyond trainings on data privacy, gender sensitivity, health and safety protocols, mental health, and those sponsored by their Human Resource Development Ofifce; (4) allowing the staff to exercise discretion and autonomy in the execution of their tasks; and (5) triangulating the procedures and results of this study in future studies that take into account the perspectives of other stakeholders.