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    Message of Maria Leonor Gerona Robredo Vice President of the Philippines At #BagoTayo Webisode #5: Government Innovations on Education Under the New Normal

    Message of Maria Leonor Gerona Robredo Vice President of the Philippines At #BagoTayo Webisode #5: Government Innovations on Education Under the New Normal

     

    Thank you, Saje [Molato] (CEO, Siklab Pilipinas). Thank you to Siklab Pilipinas, to Galing Pook Foundation and to all the partners—UNICEF Philippines, National Youth Commission, Dr. Eddie Dorotan (Executive Director, Galing Pook) of course, and Mayor Krisel Lagman of Tabaco, Albay. Thank you for inviting me to this very important conversation tonight. Hello rin sa lahat ng mga kabataan na kasama natin ngayon. Maraming salamat sa kagustuhan ninyong maging mas involved sa sabay-sabay nating pagtugon sa mga hamon ng pandemya.

    Napapanahon ‘yung tema ng webisode ninyo ngayong gabi: “Government Innovations on Education Under the New Normal.” Kasi now more than ever, dahil sa mga challenges na dala ng physical distancing at pag-transition sa new modalities of learning, kitang-kita natin ‘yung urgent need na mag-invest sa technology. 

    According to a survey by DepEd, most parents or 8.8 million of those surveyed prefer modular learning as an alternative for face-to-face classes this school year. It is followed by blended learning or the combination of learning through modules and online classes. Pumapangatlo lang ‘yung online classes as the most preferred modality. And I think this is very much understandable dahil ‘yung modular ‘yung pinaka-less intimidating for them.

    Pero while modular learning may work for now, we need to start preparing for the future and embrace digitization as early as now. Para nga sa akin, opportunity sana ito para maghabol tayo. We need to modernize, we need to adapt, we need to scale up, because it is the call of the times—and if we don’t act now, mas mapag-iiwanan ‘yung mga learners at teachers natin.

    Even before the pandemic, marami nang mga gaps iyong ating education sector. In fact, a very recent World Bank and NEDA study, sinasabi na the Philippines is lagging behind our Southeast Asian neighbors when it comes to adopting digital technologies for business, governance, and education. At itong gap na ito ay ramdam natin on the ground.

    So in fact, when DepEd announced the shift to blended learning this school year, kabilang ang Office of the Vice President sa dinagsa ng requests for tech support—I’m sure hindi lang kami, pero marami pang ibang hinihingian ng tulong. May mga nanghihingi ng laptops at smartphones, may nagre-request ng access sa Internet, eto ‘yung heartbreaking, meron pa ‘yung mga nagrerequest ng kuryente, kasi may mga lugar na wala pa ring kuryente. Hindi lahat ng bata may gadgets, alam natin iyon, at hindi lahat ng tahanan at communities, may sapat na digital infrastructure para masuportahan ‘yung pag-conduct ng online classes—and the pandemic only serves to amplify these gaps.

    Pero ang paniniwala natin: Education in the time of pandemic must focus on ensuring that the adverse effects of the virus do not cross over to the next generation. Dapat hindi na makarating sa mga anak ng mga bata ngayon ‘yung pagkahuli natin. This means: teaching skills for a more digital-centric economy, teaching the youth to reimagine the future, and to build a better normal. This means also using technology as an instrument towards building a better, fairer, and more equitable world.

     

    Gaya ng sinasabi ko kanina, pakiramdam ko, ‘yung panahon sana ng pandemic, ito ‘yung opportunity natin maghabol kasi huling-huli na tayo. Siguro kung naka-act swiftly tayo, baka sakaling nakahabol tayo nang kaunti. Ngayon nakikita natin, nagpo-photocopy ng sobrang dami na mga modules. Siguro ‘pag sinuma total natin ‘yung gastos, baka mas magastos pa ‘yung nagpo-photocopy tayo nang nagpo-photocopy instead of providing teachers and students the necessary gadgets. Di ba, para ‘yung capacity building ng mga teachers, sana hinabol natin. ‘Yung Wi-Fi sa mga schools, sana hinabol natin. Kasi ‘yung ibang bansa, ito na talaga ‘yung modality na sinusunod.

     

    Pero kami at the Office of the Vice President, we have since moved towards this direction; finding the gaps and filling them in, and going next to where we are most needed. In doing so, nakatulong sa amin ‘yung pag-maximize ng technology para mapalawak ‘yung impact ng COVID-19 response operations namin, kabilang na ‘yung education initiatives namin na pinangalanan naming Bayanihan e-Skwela. And this is what we will be sharing with you tonight.

     

    Pero siguro, before that, kukuwentuhan ko lang kayo nang kaunti how these initiatives came about. Kasi kanina, noong ini-introduce ako ni Saje, sinabi niya na marami kaming initiatives during the pandemic—‘yung pagproduce ng PPE sets, ‘yung mga shuttle buses, ‘yung assistance to communities, pagdala ng mga pagkain, paglagay ng dorms, paglagay ng Community Mart. Masyadong marami, pero ang idi-discuss ko sa inyo ngayon, ‘yung Bayanihan e-Skwela, papaano kami nag-umpisa dito.

     

    Hindi na siguro lingid sa kaalaman ninyo na limitado lang ang mandato ng opisina namin, and we have one of the smallest budgets in the entire bureaucracy. Pero gaya ng lagi, parating ang thought process naming: Saan ba ‘yung gaps? Ano ba ‘yung dapat tutukan? Saan tayo makakagawa ng pinakamalaking impact?

     

    So we identified the challenges; at ‘yung mga solusyon dito ‘yung naging strategic direction ng mga proyekto namin sa ilalim ng Bayanihan e-Skwela. So at its very core, it is really harnessing bayanihan in its truest, most community-driven, most Filipino sense. So parang kami, kami lang ‘yung nagha-harness ng power ng network, kami ‘yung nagha-harness ng mga strengths ng aming mga partners, pero talagang ito ay collaboration by many, many people and many organizations.

     

    Bayanihan e-Skwela actually has four components. Ang una nating nakitang problema, ‘yung kakulangan ng gadgets para makasabay ‘yung mga bata sa distance learning. So ‘yung pinakauna naming ginawa, we initially responded by calling for an online donation drive for gadgets and equipment, with the help of our partner, the Kaya Natin Movement. We asked for help from those who have old and extra gadgets pero functioning pa rin na pwede pang magamit ng mga kabataan natin. Nag-crowdsource din kami ng mga computer technicians para mag-ayos noong mga dino-donate sa amin. Tumatanggap tayo ng mga donations hanggang ngayon, at meron nga ring nagdo-donate ng mga brand new na talagang magagamit ng mga bata.

     

    Since we launched the donation drive a few months ago, we have received about 2,500+ items with a total appraised value of ₱6.7 million, and we also received some cash donations amounting to ₱912,000 as of October 24.

     

    Pero as weeks passed by, more needs emerged: Foremost among them is adequate support for those in the frontlines—and in this case, sino ba ‘yung nasa frontlines? ‘Yung teachers saka ‘yung parents. And to do this, our Office teamed up with subject matter experts from the UP College of Education and volunteer creatives, mga ad agencies, celebrities, and we produced instructional videos that talk about tips and techniques to help teachers and parents adjust to blended learning. Lahat sila, nagtrabaho nang pro-bono sa kani-kanilang mga bahay to make the videos. Ang bilis nilang nagawa ang mga ito, all while coordinating remotely. Kasi sobrang hirap talaga kasi ginawa natin ito, ECQ.

     

    To date, we have released 20 videos, and we are set to release more. These are readily available and are already uploaded on our Bayanihan e-Skwela YouTube and Facebook pages.

     

    Aside from these instructional videos, meron din kaming iba pang mga mas intensive na teacher training initiatives na ginagawa sa tulong ng ilang private partners. Sa ngayon, we have an ongoing partnership with Pasig LGU for the training of all public and private school teachers, and DepEd Region V for the training of teachers for online and modular teaching. Hanggang ngayon nagte-training pa rin. Patuloy nating pinag-aaralan kung paano pa ito madadala sa mas marami pang communities.

     

    Pero ang isa sa mga patuloy nating ginagawa ngayon ay ang pagse-setup ng mga Community Learning Hubs. Ano ‘yung Community Learning Hubs? Ang tinutukan naman namin dito, ‘yung pagpatuloy ng pag-aaral ng mga bata kahit may pandemya. Kasi nakita namin: Hindi lahat ng bahay, hindi lahat ng tahanan, conducive for learning. May mga lugar at komunidad na napakalayo sa sentro. Mahirap ang signal, mahirap ang Internet, walang lugar para sa mga bata para mag-aral, walang gadgets ang karamihan sa mga bata. Ang ibang mga magulang, walang capacity para matutukan ang kailangan ng mga bata habang nag-aaral. Marami ring mga bata ang difficult learners at kailangan ‘yung tutok ng isang guro para matulungan silan mahurdle ‘yung difficulties.

     

    This is one of the initiatives we are most proud of, dahil kitang-kita ang paggalaw ng buong komunidad para masigurong may lugar ang mga bata para mag-aral—from LGU to volunteers, to parents and our partner organizations, the response has been very, very positive.

     

    The idea is to put up these hubs as alternative learning spaces where learners can not only access donated gadgets like computers, photocopying machines, and printers so that they can do their schoolwork and print their worksheets; but this is also a place where they can get person-to-person mentoring through our volunteer tutors.

     

    Ngayon, meron nang mga nagbukas na pilot sites. Actually, this week—last week pala—binisita ko ‘yung dalawang sites na malapit, ‘yung Pasig City saka ‘yung Taytay, Rizal—and the assessment really was very, very encouraging. Meron din tayong dalawang sites sa Himamaylan, Negros Occidental; meron tayo sa San Jose, Camarines, Sur; meron tayo sa Balete, Aklan; merong dalawa sa Lucena City. Sa Tabaco, Albay—thank you kay Mayor Krisel, partner natin sila. Meron tayong kani-kaniya team na tumutulong sa mga lugar na ‘to, and meron pang 50 other sites na ineexplore or ginagawa na ngayon o nagte-training na ‘yung mga tutors. ‘Yung mga tutors natin, ‘yung first batch, tapos na ‘yung training, 179 tutors ‘yun. Ngayon, parang 270 tutors ‘yung second batch. ‘Yung third batch paumpisa ngayon, so maraming tutors na idedeploy natin sa mga Community Learning Hubs.

     

    ‘Yung pagbisita namin, talagang, unang linggo ‘yun—unang linggo ng operations noong mga hubs. Doon natin na-realize kung gaano kahalaga ‘yung mga espasyo na tulad nito. Kuwento nga ng isa sa mga volunteers natin sa Brgy. Pinagbuhatan sa Pasig, maraming mga bata ang nagpupunta sa hub natin doon, karamihan sa kanila, non-readers, non-writers. And I talked to one of the parents, tamang-tama na-timing ‘yung pagpunta ko, sabi niya hulog ng langit ‘yung Community Learning Hub, kasi sila daw mag-asawa, nagtitinda sila ng buko, and wala talaga silang oras sa bahay para maturuan ang kanilang mga anak. And noong nandoon ako, tinitingnan ko ‘yung mga modules nila: Sabi ko, kung sa bahay nila ‘yun gagawin at walang magulang na tututok, baka mahirapan ‘yung karamihan sa kanila. Kaya para sa kanila, malaking bagay na merong ganitong klaseng espasyo na pwede nilang puntahan to do their schoolwork. And ang maganda sa mga hubs natin, kalapit lang talaga siya ng mga communities na kine-cater, so hindi kinakailangang maglakad nang malayo ‘yung mga bata at parents.

     

    ‘Yung hub naman natin sa Brgy. Sta. Ana sa Taytay, binisita ko rin noong Wednesday, nagke-cater ito sa mahigit 200 students from Grade 1 to Senior High School. Kuwento ni Kagawad Tobit, ‘yung lead natin na partner doon, malaking bagay daw talaga dahil karamihan sa mga magulang sa barangay nila, nagwo-work talaga na full time, kaya hirap matutukan ang mga anak sa pag-aaral. Actually noong bumisita tayo, parang may Signal No. 1 na yata, dapat walang pasok dahil maulan, pumunta lang kami to inspect ‘yung Community Learning Hub—pero pagpunta namin may mga bata pa rin na nagpunta. Kuwento rin ng partners natin, isa sa regular users ng hub nila doon ay isang 43-year-old na street cleaner, si Marilyn, nasa Grade 1 pa lang. At dahil meron tayong Community Learning Hub, ano siya, naengganyo siya na mag-aral kasi merong malapit na mapupuntahan para mag-aral. Sayang hindi namin siya na-meet personally kasi pumunta kami ng umaga, hapon daw pumupunta si Marilyn.

     

    Ang pinapakita lang nito: Napakahalaga pa rin ng face-to-face mentoring, lalo na para sa mga difficult learners. ‘Yung mas matatanda na mga bata na kaya nang mag-self study, walang problema. Pero ‘yung may mga kahirapan sa pag-aaral, ang laking bagay na may tumututok sa kanila. So ngayon, dahil marami kaming na-find out na non-readers na pumupunta, we are looking at devoting all Fridays sa hub for non-readers lang. We have talked to the UP College of Education already and we are developing parang training for trainers, para matulungan ‘yung tutors natin kung paano ‘yung best way to help non-readers. Ang problema lang sa mga hubs natin, dahil kailangan nating siguraduhin ‘yung health protocols nasusunod, ‘yung physical distancing nasusunod, talagang we can only accommodate so much number at any given time. So hindi tayo ngayon tumatanggap ng walk-in, kasi kailangan naka-schedule. Kailangan nagre-register ‘yung mga bata kung interesado silang gumamit ng hubs. So far puno ‘yung ating mga schedules, kaya we hope to open more.

     

    So ito ‘yung ginagawa natin ngayon, pero more work needs to be done. And these are our recommendations: Number one, establish more learning hubs na gaya nito near community schools. Number two, provide trainings for teachers. Kahit ang dami-dami ng trainings for teachers, marami pa rin ‘yung nagrereklamo na kailangan pa talaga nila ng capacity building. Pangatlo and tingin ko napakaimportante nito: Invest more in technology so that resource gaps can be filled. ‘Yung printing of modules kasi, parang ano lang ito e, parang pantawid lang. Parang tulay lang ito, pero hindi siya ‘yung end. Kailangan talagang habang nagpiprint tayo, habang naghahanda tayo, kailangan nag-i-invest talaga tayo sa technology. Kasi ito na, hindi nga ito future e, pero present. Ito na ‘yung kailangan sa present. Make sure that digital infrastructure is in place so that we can fully transition to online learning kung tumagal pa itong situwasyon natin. Ito, inuulit-ulit ko ito, in areas with no community transmission—sa OVP, nagka-crunch kami ng numbers araw-araw, and lumalabas almost 500 LGUs, no community transmission at all. Ito ‘yung mga LGUs na malalayo, ang iba dito coastal, ang iba bundok. Para sa akin, kung wala namang community transmission, baka face-to-face classes can be explored already in these areas. Kasi iniimagine mo, sa malalayong lugar nagmo-modular pa, mahirap sa teachers, mahirap sa mga bata, so para sa akin dapat hindi pwede ‘yung one-size-fits-all na solution dahil iba-iba ‘yung realities on the ground. Dapat sana binabagay.

     

    Gaya ng iba naming mga proyekto, nagiging posible ang lahat ng ito dahil sa pagbubukas-loob ng mga partners at volunteers namin. At karamihan sa mga volunteers at implementing partners namin for our community learning hubs, mga kabataang kagaya ninyo—mga youth organizations, SK officials, mga ordinaryong Pilipino na laging handang makiambag, binubuhos ang oras at lakas para sa ikauunland ng kani-kanilang mga komunidad.

     

    So kung sa tingin ninyo magiging malaking tulong itong community learning hubs sa inyong lugar, or gusto niyong mag-volunteer sa mga existing na namin, we are very much open to partnering with you—just let us know so we can work with you. We concluded the onboarding of our first batch of volunteers last September, ito ‘yung sabi ko sa inyong 179. We already started with the second batch two weeks ago, ito ‘yung sabi kong 270. Tapos bukas pala, bukas ‘yung first day ng aming batch 3 na onboarding. Hindi kami nagbubukas ng Community Learning Hub na hindi pa nate-train ‘yung mga tutors, and sobrang overwhelming kasi ang daming kabataan talaga ‘yung nagvo-volunteer para mag-tutor. In some localities, ‘yung inaya ng mga partner na mag-tutor, ‘yung mga Education students, ‘yung mga Senior High, ‘yung mga kailangan ng OJT. ‘Yung iba talagang gusto lang tumulong.

     

    Pero ito, in essence, our bedrock belief in education: Ang bawat isa sa atin ay stakeholder—kabilang na, hindi lang kami, pero kabilang na ang mga young leaders na kagaya ninyo. We believe that the education of our children rests not only on the shoulders of the academe; it is a responsibility shared across the entire community. Because with an educated population, everyone benefits: The workforce becomes more competitive, the national pool of knowledge becomes vaster, and our collective capacity to innovate and find solutions becomes greater.

     

    All of this we were able to do and more, because technology served for us as an instrument of service, to make bayanihan possible even during these extraordinary times. Mula pagbigay ng real-time updates ng aming mga shuttle buses, hanggang sa pagbubukas ng mga dormitoryo na malalapit sa  ospital, technology has allowed us to reach more people faster. Mas agile ang opisina namin ngayon dahil sa technology—and many of the ideas have come from young digital natives like you.

     

    So hindi man tayo pisikal na magkakasama ngayong araw to keep ourselves safe from the virus, technology has afforded us a certain sense of togetherness—bound not only by this crisis, but more importantly, by our collective aspirations, and a collective resolve to achieve these.

     

    Kaya ang call to action ko siguro sa inyo: Collaborate more. Find more people, more organizations, and work together. Expand your circles. Listen and empower each other. Innovate more. Take sure steps that inch us closer to our collective goal: mag-volunteer, maglatag ng mga programa para makatulong, kahit simple lang, mag-tutor ng isang bata, magbukas ng isang isip.

     

    Kasi wala talagang maliit na ambag; lahat na ambag, mahalaga. Bawat hakbang, basta tiyak at papalabas ang kilos, basta iisa ang kumpas, siguradong dadalhin tayo sa mas patas, mas makatao, mas makatarungang kinabukasan na pinapangarap natin.

     

    And siguro finally, the pandemic may have forcibly put many aspects of our lives on hold—but it is up to us to create spaces that create opportunities in the face of crisis: spaces for the youth to be empowered and contribute to society; spaces for our children to learn and to dream. This is how communities and nations are built—with sure steps forward and everyone moving in lockstep towards a single horizon, towards a better normal for all.

     

    Since mga student leaders kayo, eto siguro ‘yung pinakaimportante, na sigurado tayo kung saan tayo patutungo. Kasi kung hindi tayo sigurado kung saan tayo patutungo, kung hindi tayo naka-lockstep, sayang ang ating mga efforts. So sa amin, tuloy lang. We are here to be of any assistance to all of you. Ine-encourage ko ang lahat na tumulong, this is a real opportunity for us to really make a difference for our country.

     

    Maraming salamat, mabuhay kayong lahat!

     

     

     

    Posted in Speeches on Oct 28, 2020