Un-energized schools in ARMM to get solar panels, computers

The Department of Education (DepEd) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) are set to launch the computerization and solar power project on March 16 at Baungis Elementary School in Basilan, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The project will benefit nearly 4,000 un-energized public schools in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDAs), often difficult to reach by regular transportation. With an average population of 100-200 students, the identified schools will now have access to laptops powered by solar energy.

DepEd secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones recently emphasized the indispensable role of information and communications technology (ICT) in education: “I don’t think we can survive without ICT. We will surely go back to the dark ages if we ignore ICT but at the same time, we have to remember ICT is primarily a tool which helps us in making decisions, which helps us in understanding the world that we live in, which helps us find solutions.”

DepEd ICT Services (ICTS) director Abram Abanil described the project as “the first ever combination of ICT and solar solution for the schools in the margins.”

On March 29, 2016, DepEd and the UNDP Philippine Country Office entered an agreement wherein the latter was tapped to procure the ICT packages using UNDP rules to fast-track service delivery.

The agreement further outlined UNDP support to DepEd’s efforts in implementing public financial management (PFM) reforms, particularly:

a) the deployment of community-based monitors to inspect the delivery and installation of the ICT packages;
b) the conduct of baseline and diagnostic studies, as well as the development and pilot of a tool; and
c) the development and pilot of a capacity development course on PFM for both government and civil society.

DepEd ARMM assistant secretary Alfaddar Pajiji emphasized technology as only one part of the solution to enhance the quality of education.

“We’d like to use ICT to enhance our teaching methods. But we must also continuously develop the capacity of our teachers so they can serve our students better,” he said.

UNDP program manager Caroline Belisario, on the other hand, reiterated the role of parents and the value of community participation. “Community volunteers, parents, and LGUs are helping us monitor the delivery of these ICT packages. They can ensure that these equipment will benefit their children,” she said.

“We urge everyone to monitor the delivery and installation because these are for your children,” Belisario added.

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