Eleven-year-old Sheran Bueramo walks through hills and forests to go to school in Tanay Rizal in pursuit of his dream to be an engineer someday. Bueramo, however, hopes to succeed in a technology-driven world studying in a school without electricity.
Rawang Elementary School is just one of over 3,000 schools in the Philippines – which serves more than 1 million students – with no electricity. Many of its students have not seen, much more used, a television, computer, or tablet that could help enhance their learning.
This is why Smart Communications launched the School-in-a-Bag. This is a backpack containing a solar panel for electricity, a laptop, tablet, mobile phone, pocket WiFi with starter load, LED TV, and learning modules. Smart targets to donate School-in-a-Bag units to 10 schools in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao this year, and hopes to get people and groups to add to this number via sponsorships.
“We don’t want children in remote areas to be left behind. We want to help them gain access to the wealth of knowledge out there through digital learning tools. But we cannot do this alone,” said Smart public affairs senior manager Stephanie Orlino.
Each School-in-a-Bag costs P100,000. This already includes the devices, learning modules aligned with the K-12 curriculum, training for the teachers, and delivery of the unit. Each bag will benefit hundreds of students in its projected working life span of five years.
“We encourage companies, alumni associations, rotary clubs, local government units, and individuals to pitch in to give children in remote communities a fighting chance for a better future,” Orlino said. She said interested parties can send an email to [email protected] for more details.
Discovering a new world
When Smart donated a School-in-a-Bag to Rawang Elementary School last July, Bueramo said he and his classmates were both happy and excited.
“Malaki ang naitulong ng School-in-a-Bag sa amin. Kahit kami ay nasa kabundukan, kahit paano ay naibsan ang kawalan namin ng malay. Nakakakita na kami ng ibang dimensyon bukod sa puno at bato (The School-in-a-Bag helped us a lot. Even though we are in the mountains, somehow our lack of knowledge has lessened. We can now see other dimensions of this world aside from the trees and rocks that we are used to),” he said.
Maria Asuncion Tongohan, a kinder and grade one teacher, observed that the School-in-a-Bag gave students a deeper understanding of the lessons. “We can discuss the subjects more thoroughly with them because there’s a visual component in the lecture. Instead of us just talking or drawing on the blackboard, the videos make it more interesting for them — especially for the little kids who want to see colorful visuals.”
Former principal Arlene Catampatan said, “Our students are not just interested in learning, they are also more behaved because they are attentive when they see these new gadgets.” She said student attendance has also improved.
Bag of hope
Dr. Margarita Consolacion Ballesteros, external partnerships service director at the Department of Education, described the School-in-a-Bag as a “bag of hope.”
“It is a bag for the future of our Filipino kids. Kids in provinces need more than kalinga (care); they also need opportunities to escape poverty. We thank Smart for paving the way,” she said.
Smart public affairs head Mon Isberto said the School-in-a-Bag program is part of the company’s overall efforts to use technology for development. “We try to see how technology can be put in the service of different areas of social and economic development, like education, livelihood, health, and disaster preparedness and response.” (Press Release)