Metro Manila Mayors step up to the plate
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - September 23, 2020 - 12:00am

In the next two weeks, classes in all elementary and high schools both in private and public schools will definitely start on Oct. 5. There will be no more deferment of the opening of classes for school year 2020-2021 implementing the “blended learning” as declared by the Department of Education (Dep-Ed).

This is compliance with the no face-to-face holding of classes while the Philippines has yet to get supplied with the vaccines to fight the deadly coronavirus diseases 2019 pandemic. Called COVID-19 for short, President Rodrigo Duterte approved the “blended learning” to enable schoolchildren and students to return to classes at least risk to their lives as well as of their teachers.

Under the so-called “blended-learning,” Dep-Ed came up with a combination of printed modular learning packets; lessons aired through radio and television broadcasts; and, electronic or “e-learning” through wifi/online/internet. Dep-Ed Secretary Leonor Briones is one of the Cabinet officials in the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging and Infectious Diseases (IATF).

According to the Dep-Ed, the two-month delay of school opening enabled them to iron out many of the glitches and other kinks to carry out the “blended learning” system. However, admittedly much of the connectivity problems of many public schools all over the country remain a challenge. No less than the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) study showed only above income Filipinos can afford to buy laptops and tablets to be connected to “e-learning” platform.

Fortunately for thousands of students and teachers in many public schools, local government units (LGUs) in first-class cities and municipalities, especially here in Metro Manila where the leadership of Mayors live up to the needs of their constituents. Aside from the gadgets, they are assured of being provided with free supply of wifi/internet services. Dep-Ed’s job is eased by the effective local chief executives of the cities of Manila, Makati, Quezon City, San Juan, Mandaluyong, Pasig, Navotas, Valenzuela, and Paranaque.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte awarded a local contractor that won an open public bidding the contract to supply 176,000 Samsung tablets worth P1.2 billion to Grade 7 to 12 city public school students for their online learning. This was after the Quezon City school board earlier approved a budget of P2.9 billion to fund relevant and appropriate learning materials for more than 430,000 expected enrollees in public schools in the city. Mayor Belmonte required the supplier of the gadgets to install special safety features to ensure that students will only use the tablet for their learning purposes and will not have access to unsafe websites and applications.

Mayor Belmonte also got the support of the Quezon City Schools Board to fund the Dep-Ed’s required modules, learning packets containing flash drives and other additional printed materials for those in kinder to grade school levels. She reassured public school teachers of Quezon City will also receive P1,000 internet allowance and laptops that they can use next school year.

During our Kapihan sa Manila Bay Webinar last Sept.9, Manila Mayor Isko “Yorme” Moreno disclosed the Manila City Council realigned their budget this year to fund measures to deal with the unexpected outbreak of COVID pandemic. According to Yorme, they “folded” the budget for road and street repairs; “collapsed” participation of Manila in this year’s Palarong Pambansa, among the less urgent projects the City Council approved for deferment to next year. As a result, the City Council produced P1.7 billion of these realigned budget to procure 200,000 tablets for Manila public schoolchildren and students and 10 gigabytes of free wi-fi for each of them.

As of this writing, Mayor Vico Sotto promised to deliver tablets to at least 138,000 public school students in Pasig City for their distance learning by the end of this month. Mayor Sotto sternly reminded the supplier of tablets on the scheduled delivery on Sept. 30, or a week before classes open. Last June, the neophyte Mayor of Pasig City was able to raise some P1.2 billion to buy the e-learning gadgets also from realignment of City Hall budget this year.

Mayor Menchie Abalos of Mandaluyong City announced 35,000 units of gadgets to be distributed hopefully before the school opening while 2,300 teachers are set to receive laptops from City Hall.

For Parañaque City, Mayor Edwin Olivarez bared the “e-learning” of all their city public schools are connected through a fiber optic provider. Antennaes put up in all these public schools, Mayor Olivarez explained, are linked all the way to the Parañaque City Hall. Awarded after public bidding, CableLink is providing these services to the entire Paranaque City, Mayor Olivarez told us last week during our Webinar Kapihan sa Manila Bay.

According to Mayor Olivarez, the city government has spent P300 million for the purchase of gadgets to be used for the “blended learning” that included the purchase of 1,500 laptops for their public school teachers and printers to print out modules. Given scarce resources, he pointed out, only some 15,000 tablets could be given to kindergarteners up to grade one students only. But the rest of city school students will continue to get their P500 monthly cash allowances.

But for San Juan City, the city government is getting free 11,000 tablets and 1,500 laptops donated by DICT for distribution to the students and teachers in their public schools. The city of San Juan was chosen last year as DICT’s pilot city for its free WiFi project where public places in the city’s 21 barangay halls, health centers, public schools, police stations and public parks will enjoy free wifi access to internet sites of DICT. This was after Mayor Francis Zamora entered into a memorandum of agreement with DICT last June. But as of this writing, DICT has yet to deliver the portable computers under this pilot project with San Juan city.

Well, some guys have all the luck. But others have stepped up to the plate.

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