Ten percent of the country’s students remain in the “dark ages”, in communities unreached by electricity—effectively insulating them from distance learning dependent on gadgets that run on power, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto.
Recto noted the plight of about 2.25 million Department of Education learners during his questioning of the proposed 2021 budgets of the Department of Education and Department of Energy.
Asked how many households still do not have electricity, Sen. Win Gatchalian, sponsor of DOE’s budget replied, “2.3 million households.”
This, Recto said, translates to 10 percent of the population, “and these are usually large families with many children.”
That ratio, he explained, can be applied on school enrolment, “that it is safe to say that 10 percent of our DepEd enrollees are from homes without light or power.”
“So kung 22.5 million ang DepEd enrollment this year, then 10 percent of them are struggling under a new normal of education in which laptops and computers play an important role,” Recto said.
“Before the pandemic struck, we already had millions of unplugged children, not by choice, but by circumstance,” he said.
“Kung walang kuryente, paano ka makapanood ng lessons sa TV, or tatangggap ng assignments via email kung wala ngang power source ang cellphone mo?” Recto said.
But DepEd data shows that not only learners are hobbled by lack of power in their homes but schools as well, as reflected in the agency’s drive to connect 449 “Last Mile Schools” in far-flung areas to power grids.
DepEd said it needs P3.85 billion to “power up” these schools, while the DOE said an aggressive sitio electrification program would require P25 billion to erase the backlog of 2.3 million household connections.
Recto said “homes without electricity can be found in an urban setting, where families are too poor to connect to and pay for billed electricity. Meron pa ring sa ilaw ng gasera nag-aaral o sa kalsada o tabi ng building na may ilaw.”