[6 December 2017] A Filipino couple based in Japan sponsored a School-in-a-Bag unit to help students of a mountain school in Rizal enhance their education through technology.
On a mountain in Tanay, Rizal sits Nayon Elementary School which is second home to 123 students and their four teachers. To reach the school, one needs to travel two hours from the town proper, transfer to a customized jeep, and travel another hour through a rocky path and 13 river crossings. The terrain is so rugged that chains are looped around the jeep’s tires for better traction.
Because of its remoteness, the school does not have ready access to a lot of conveniences available to city-dwellers – electricity, technology tools such as computers, and information that can be derived from such devices.
But because of the kindness of a Filipino couple based in Japan, the students and hardworking teachers of Nayon Elementary School can now use digital tools to enhance their education.
The couple – an entrepreneur and a preschool teacher in their 30s who wish to remain anonymous – donated P100,000 to sponsor a School-in-a-Bag unit created by PLDT mobile subsidiary Smart Communications. Designed as a waterproof backpack that can be brought to far-flung areas like islands and mountains, the School-in-a-Bag contains a solar panel, laptop, tablets, digital learning content, LED TV, and pocket Wi-Fi with starter load. The package also comes with training sessions for teachers and yearlong monitoring.
When Smart and the couple’s representative delivered the School-in-a-Bag on a rainy day last November, the students of Nayon Elementary School eagerly took turns using the tablets which came preloaded with a learning app. They practiced writing the alphabet, listened to stories, and played educational games using the tablets.
“Without the donation, these gadgets would remain merely an idea in the minds of the students – things they see only in pictures or on TV, if they do have access to one. Now, even if they are on a mountain, they can see and use high-tech devices,” said Armando Ponce, Department of Education (DepEd) supervisor for Tanay. He added that the devices would help the teachers do their job better.
Marilyn Domilom, president of the school’s parent-teacher association, said the group is grateful for the donation. “Noong may solar panel pa dito, tuwang tuwa ang mga anak ko kapag nakakagamit sila ng computer. Nalaman nila kung paano pumindot sa keyboard at gumamit ng mouse. Ngayon, mas madadagdagan pa yung kaalaman nila. Malaking bagay po sa amin yun. [When the school still had a solar panel, my children would feel very happy every time they got to use a computer. They learned how to use a keyboard and mouse. Now, they will gain additional knowledge. This is a big deal for us.]”
Domilom's kids, JM and April Joy, said they were happy about the school’s new gadgets. “Mas excited po kaming mag-aral [We are more excited to study now],” they said.
Studies conducted among earlier recipients of Smart’s digital learning packages showed that the tools and educational content have heightened the students’ interest in lessons. They are more attentive and well-behaved when using the tablets. Their literacy skills have also improved.
Meanwhile, the teachers no longer have to shell out their own money to create visual aids that can grab the children’s attention.
So far, Smart, kindhearted individuals, and corporate sponsors have turned over about 40 School-in-a-Bag units to public schools all over the country – from a mountain school in Benguet to a school in Bukidnon. Ten more are set to be turned over in the coming months.
But the job is far from done, as there are still around 6,000 schools in the Philippines without electricity and access to technology tools. This is why Smart is calling on individuals and organizations to sponsor more School-in-a-Bag units.
The couple who sponsored a unit for Nayon Elementary School also encouraged people to lend a helping hand.
“Education is our best shot at alleviating poverty and improving the lives of our fellow Filipinos. Let us help children in far-flung areas get access to information that they need and deserve. Sponsoring a bag will not only help students reap the benefits of technology; it will also give you personal satisfaction. There is joy in knowing that you helped make the lives of our future generation better,” they said.
Those who wish to help, especially this Christmas season, may send an email to TechnoCart@smart.com.ph
The road to Nayon Elementary School in Rizal is so rough that chains are looped around tires for better traction.
Nayon Elementary School is one of 6,000 schools in the Philippines without electricity.
Students say they are more excited to study, now that they have access to digital learning tools and content.