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DepEd would have used P389-M Manila Bay project fund to buy gadgets – Briones

If the Department of Education (DepEd) had the P389-million budget for the white sand project in Manila Baywalk, Secretary Leonor Briones said the agency would have used it to buy gadgets for students who don’t have access to technology as the education system shifts to distance learning

"Sigurado ako na malaking bahagi diyan mapupunta sa, halimbawa, sa pangangailangan ng gadgets sa mga lugar kasi we have more than 3,000 na eskuweklahan na ang tawag natin ay Last Mile Schools na walang connectivity [kasi] medyo isolated sila. Makakatulong ito," Briones said in a virtual press briefing aired on state-run PTV4 on Monday, September 7.

(I am sure that a big part of this would go, for example, in purchasing gadgets for some areas because we have more than 3,000 schools known as Last Mile Schools which have connectivity issues due to their isolated nature. This would have been of help.)

Aside from this, Briones also said they would allot the money for the printing of the modules, which is the "backbone" of the DepEd distance learning system. (READ: 4 schools division offices 'lagging behind' on printing of modules – DepEd)

"Isa pa, ang pag-print ng mga modules. As I said, dito sa Pilipinas maski urban centers hindi naman lahat ay may access sa technology at kailangan secure pa ang sources ng ating connectivity," she added.

(One more thing, for the printing of modules. As I said, here in the Philippines, even the urban centers, not all have access to technology, and we need to secure sources for connectivity.)

Briones made the statement as preparations for the school opening on October 5 are underway.

Senator Ralph Recto, an economist, estimated the DepEd would be needing some P100 billion to print the the learning modules of over 23 million public school students for one academic year. (READ: Back to school during a pandemic: Issues that need to be solved before October 5)

The controversial Manila bay rehabilitation project, which is the government's latest attempt to improve its appearance by dumping white sand along the baywalk, made headlines last week.

Environmental advocates said the project could result in the degradation of adjoining marine conservation areas, while others questioned government priorities amidst the pandemic. (READ: Groups hit DENR for filling Manila Baywalk with white sand)

The decision to open schools amid a pandemic had been criticized. Parents and students pointed out the that pandemic lockdowns have affected household finances and they don't have money to buy tools needed for the overhauled education system. (READ: No student left behind? During pandemic, education 'only for those who can afford')

On Friday, September 4, a teachers’ group trooped to the gates of the House of Representatives to demand a bigger education budget for 2021 as the country shifts to distance learning. (READ: Teachers seek bigger education budget in 2021 amid pandemic)

DepEd earlier said that it would appeal to move some P26 billion in "unprogrammed" funds to programmed funds, as well as teachers' annual medical allowance, when Congress tackles the agency's 2021 budget on September 15 so it would have enough funds for the distance learning.

As of Monday, over 24 million public and private students have signed for the school opening. This is 3 million less compared to the number of last year's enrollees. – Rappler.com

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.

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