Bringing power to public schools and schoolchildren
Foundation for Worldwide People Power
Tamale Elementary School is a multigrade school with a current enrollment of 64 pupils from kindergarten up to Grade 6. Located in a remote, off-grid barangay in the town of Bongabon, Nueva Ecija, the school did not have access to electricity and, consequently, to information and communications technology.
Through the initiative of an NGO, and with support from the local government, solar panels have been installed around the community to power the streetlights for the residents as well as provide electric light to some of the households. About half of the schoolchildren still use kerosene lamps and candles when they study at night.
The other day, the school received a package of blessings. The same NGO which provided streetlights to the community donated a solar generator set to the school. An electronics company donated laptops and tablets for the use of the pupils and the teachers. The municipal government fixed one room to make it more conducive to learning and to securely house the generator set and the new ICT equipment. Meanwhile, the barangay chair committed to deploy the barangay tanod for added security of the ICT room and equipment during nonschool hours. The children will no longer have to use kerosene lamps and candles when they study at night because another NGO has donated solar lanterns.
What happened in Tamale Elementary School—specifically, the assistance that the school got and the multistakeholder support that went into it—is exactly what the Department of Education has started doing in almost 6,000 public schools around the country that do not have electricity. That’s about 12 percent of the entire DepEd schools system.
Through a program called LightEd PH which was launched last month, the DepEd hopes to finally provide these public schools with electric power. More than 2,400 of these schools are on-grid and will soon be energized through a partnership with the National Electrification Administration, the local electric cooperatives and their local government units. The rest will be energized using alternative sources of energy in partnership with renewable energy companies and the Department of Energy. Once they have electricity, the DepEd and its partners will provide these schools with ICT packages similar to that of Tamale Elementary School.
At the same time, through the “One Child, One Lamp” campaign, the DepEd hopes to raise enough resources to distribute solar lamps or lamps powered by alternative sources of energy to 680,000 schoolchildren who are enrolled in the unenergized schools. To achieve the objectives of the “One Child, One Lamp” campaign, the DepEd and its partners will rely on the generosity that Filipinos—and friends of Filipinos—are famously known for. The cost of one lamp is about P400 and donations can be made through Children’s Hour Philippines. At the same time, the Philippine Business for Social Progress is helping the DepEd and Children’s Hour in sourcing and procuring the lamps as well as in the actual distribution of these lamps to the schoolchildren.
To make the process more community-driven, the DepEd strongly encourages local philanthropic or social organizations and companies with business interests in the communities to adopt entire schools, either by themselves or as a concerted effort. The adopting entity or consortium must commit to raising the funds, procuring the lamps and actually distributing them to the schoolchildren who need them, and to any other tasks that would ensure that the “One Child, One Lamp” campaign succeeds in what it has set out to do.
Private companies are likewise enjoined to make “One Child, One Lamp” an employee-organized community outreach activity or an integral part of any gift-giving or donor/volunteer programs they might have.
The distribution of these lamps is a very simple solution, yet the experience of various organizations who took part in the “One Child, One Lamp” campaign has shown that the project really brings about concrete and immediate benefits to the schoolchildren and their families. For one thing, having light during the evening hours enables the schoolchildren to study their lessons and work on their assignments a bit longer, thus their interest in staying in school is enhanced because they don’t lag behind their school work. More importantly, over time the young learners will imbibe the discipline of reading and studying, which will definitely serve them well as they move up the education ladder and later on in life. The household itself benefits from the “One Child One Lamp” campaign because the parents no longer need to buy candles and kerosene, and the children are no longer exposed to toxic fumes.
The LightEd PH project and the “One Child, One Lamp” campaign are part of the DepEd’s programs for “last mile learners,” programs that aim to assist children and youth in hard-to-reach areas and in difficult circumstances—like the street children, out-of-school youth, children who need to walk long distances or cross rivers to go to school, children with disabilities, children in indigenous people’s communities, and those living in unenergized communities.
With the LightEd PH project and the “One Child, One Lamp” campaign, and the support of the community, the DepEd hopes to get closer to its goal of making quality education available and within the reach of everyone.
Mario A. Deriquito is the undersecretary for partnerships and external linkages of the Department of Education. He can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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