By James Veloso and Catherine Go | Published: June 23, 2020
“Ang pandemyang ito ay hindi hadlang para sa ating mga adhikain para sa ating mga kabataan.”
So said Biñan City’s Vice Mayor Gel Alonte, echoing the local government’s pledge that no schoolchildren will be left behind as the city’s education sector begins preparations for the opening of classes on August.
One thing is for sure, though. Biñan City is definitely one step ahead in upgrading learning facilities even before the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated sweeping changes in the country’s education sector.
In an interview with OpinYon Laguna, Biñan City Education Officer Edmil Recibe said that long before the coronavirus disease scare reached the Philippines last March, the city government has already been making plans to upgrade and modernize its schools.
Part of the plan included the distribution of 151 laptops and 200 75-inch smart televisions for use by schoolteachers and other local education officials. These were accomplished last June 10.
“Itong plano na ito ni Mayor [Arman Dimaguila] tungkol sa pamimigay ng laptops and smart TVs, [nagsimula na] prior to this pandemic,” Recibe stressed. “Wala pang pandemic, napag-usapan na ito.”
Fortunately, the arrival of the new equipment couldn’t have been more opportune given the continuing uncertainty of resuming face-to-face classes due to the COVID-19.
In fact, the city’s schools have already started online tutorials as early as April in an effort to ensure that schoolchildren will still be able to keep up with their schoolwork during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
It was also a bid to keep their students occupied and away from harmful influences on the Internet, as one schoolteacher told media.
From 100 students in its first run last April, the third batch of the city’s online tutorials now has 851 students under the supervision of 67 volunteer teachers.
The city government of Biñan was one of the few LGUs in the country recently commended by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) as a result of their continuing support for teachers and students as the education sector begins its shift to the new normal.
“Saludo po ang DILG sa mga LGUs na nakaprograma nang mag-donate ng mga laptops, tablets at smartphones at nagpapamalas ng kanilang pagmamalasakit sa mga eskuwelahan, estudyante at mga guro. Your donation will go a long way in ensuring the success of the government’s distance education initiatives,” DILG Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said in a recent press release.
Recibe, however, acknowledged that not every student in Biñan City can have access to online learning materials.
Data collected by the city’s DepEd division noted that most of Biñan’s schoolchildren don’t have gadgets.
To solve the problem, Recibe said, the city government has allotted P50 million for the printing of learning kits, to be distributed to students. “Our target ratio is one learning kit per student.”
But what about universities and colleges, where some part of their education is “outcome-based” such as on-the-job training?
Recibe noted that these universities and colleges in the city have already crafted protocols to modify their teaching modalities to adapt to the new normal.
Those who are known as “Iskolar ng Biñan” were assured that their scholarship support continues even as the national government has suspended its education support programs for higher education students.
The city government has released P1.5 million in scholarship grants — equivalent to P10,000 to each — on the second week on March or before the lockdown started.
Gadgets wouldn’t be of much use to students and teachers if there is poor Internet connectivity, a pervasive problem in the country.
Recibe confirmed another major project of the Dimaguila administration is getting every household in Biñan City connected through fiber-optic technology.
During the turnover rites, Mayor Dimaguila said, “Hindi ito nangyari dahil sa COVID-19. Two months ago, dapat nangyari na ito. The original plan is to set up a fiber-optic connectivity sa buong city na ginagawa na namin.
“By the end of July, the whole city will be connected through fiber optics. Dahil sa COVID-19, nabago ang plano, nakadisenyo sa ganitong pagkakataon [new normal].”
Radio As A Medium
Radio is one means the city government would tap as a medium to educate children.
This is in line with President Duterte’s suggestion to use mass media — like radio and television — as a medium for education.
Dimaguila said the city’s local radio station, Radyo Biñan 87.9, could be used in delivering lessons as well as announcements to students and parents.
While Internet connectivity could be limited at the moment and not every schoolchild has gadget, Radyo Biñan could be accessed by anyone.
“Sa radyo, mas madali po nating maibibigay ang ating mga instructions sa mga bata at mga magulang,” Dimaguila pointed out.
Taking Care Of Teachers
Also considered as frontliners teachers, they are exposed if only to bring education to children. Teachers’ tasks include distribution of learning kits.
The city government has laid down health and safety measures for their safety.
Recibe gave the assurance teachers will be issued personal protective equipment (PPEs) and facemasks while strict social distancing will be imposed.
Local officials also enjoined Biñan’s educators to keep themselves healthy and fit.
The greatest burden of imparting learning to children in this pandemic falls on their lap.
“Ingatan po ninyo ang inyong mga sarili,” Vice Mayor Alonte advised school officials. “Dahil kung kayo po ay maaapektuhan ng pandemya, siguro po ay mapipilay po ang [sektor ng] edukasyon dito sa lungsod ng Biñan.”