DUMAGUETE CITY ━ More than 70,000 students in far-flung, off-grid public schools in the Philippines are now able to use electricity and technology in class, thanks to an advocacy led by the Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) in partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd).
Launched in 2012, the school electrification advocacy program of the Philippines’ largest electric distributor provides remote DepEd schools with access to electricity, particularly solar power. This is implemented through the company’s corporate foundation and social development arm, One Meralco Foundation (OMF).
OMF installs between 1 to 3 kilowatt-peak solar photovoltaic equipment in schools that pass its criteria for electrification.
“There are more than 2,000 public schools nationwide which need access to electricity and we can only energize so much with the resources we have each year. And so, we prioritize those that really need the intervention the most,” explained Jeffrey O. Tarayao, president of OMF.
“Those schools that have more than 300 students, located in communities that are completely unenergized or cannot yet be energized by their respective electric cooperatives in the next three years and are not a recipient of any government-initiated electrification project, are at the top of our list for electrification,” he added.
To date, 223 schools have benefited from the program ━ 102 in Luzon, 64 in the Visayas and 57 in Mindanao. This includes eight in Negros Oriental energized this month namely, Apo Elementary School in Apo Island, Dauin; Bago-Bago Elementary School, Kanggabok Elementary School and Pedro R. Abul Memorial High School in Sta. Catalina; Salingkubong Elementary School and Nawacat Elementary School in Siaton; and San Isidro Elementary School and Palay Elementary School in Manjuyod.
Education: a shared responsibility
On Sunday, August 26, OMF and DepEd officially announced the electrification of the Negros Oriental schools in a lighting ceremony led by DepEd secretary Leonor Magtolis-Briones. It was held at the department’s sub-regional office in Dumaguete City, and was attended by representatives from Meralco, One Meralco Foundation, local government units and the beneficiary schools.
“When you talk about 21st Century education, electricity is indispensable; you cannot move forward without electricity. We are catching up in science and technology and in ICT systems, we’re teaching our children with a lot of skills so that they can enter the world of work, or go on to university studies — and this will not be possible without electrical connections,” explained Briones in an interview after the event.
“Technology changes or reforms even the production of teaching materials. We need electricity for that,” she added.
The secretary also emphasized that while the government provides the resources required by the department to improve the quality of education in the country, the private sector is also welcome to participate in this endeavor.
“Of course education is not the exclusive responsibility or mandate of the public sector. The Constitution is very clear on this issue. It talks about complementarity between the public and private sector on matters related to education. Especially on the matter of electrification, of course we have agencies that are concentrating on electrifying the entire country but we have 7,000 islands to take care of. We have more than 40,000 classrooms, 29 million learners to teach, and electricity plays a very important part here,” said Briones.
Apart from the solar photovoltaic equipment, OMF also turned over multimedia packages consisting of a 49-inch LED TV, a laptop computer and a printer-scanner-photocopier machine to each of the newly energized school. These were donated by employees of Meralco through their monthly contributions to the Meralco Employees’ Fund for Charity, Inc. (MEFCI), a non-profit institution founded by Meralco employees for charitable purposes.
“In the name of the Department of Education, we would like to express our gratitude and our appreciation for helping us electrify, bring light to as many of our schools as possible, especially in areas which are far from sources of education and development,” the education secretary said.
Pioneering Energy Education
OMF has also been working with DepEd to promote energy safety, efficiency and sustainable use through energy education.
In partnership with the Cebu-based non-profit organization, Coalition for Better Education (CBE), OMF developed localized learning resources on energy and related topics with the help of teachers selected from various public schools nationwide. These were compiled into a flashcard kit ━ called Energy Ed kit ━ which was mass-produced and distributed to close to 900 public schools nationwide.
Each kit contains 200 flashcards that are aligned with DepEd’s K to 12 curriculum and may be used in various subjects especially Science. These are now being used by over half a million students, grades 4 to 10, all over the country.
To make the materials more accessible to all schools ━ public or private ━ OMF launched an online portal, www.energyed.ph, where teachers may register and download individual flashcards or the entire package, free of charge. — Neil Rara, OMF