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A bag of learning

This special bag gives students the opportunity to study without traveling long distances to get to school

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Inside a typical student’s bag are notebooks, pencils, books, and papers, which they would carry on their backs to school using a car, a bus, a jeepney, or a tricycle—but in some places that most of us may not even be aware of, a student’s bag consists of just pencil and paper, and a change of shoes and clothes, because they have to ride a boat, traverse a river, and walk to get to school.

“There is a place in Sarangani that you can only reach by boat for five hours, then traverse a long river for another five hours and walk for five hours again to reach the community where a small school is located. You give them one book there and they are already happy,” says Margarita Ballesteros, DepEd External Partnerships Service director.

THE GIFT OK KNOWLEDGE School-in-a-bag contains a solar panel, a laptop, a tablet, a mobile phone, pocket wifi, LED TV, and learning modules

THE GIFT OK KNOWLEDGE School-in-a-bag contains a solar panel, a laptop,
a tablet, a mobile phone, pocket wifi, LED TV, and learning modules

In school, there are not even enough books for them to share. The students of Rawang Elementary School in Tanay, Rizal have to walk through hills and forests just to go to school. Their community is so remote that it has no electricity. Most of the students have not seen a television or a computer, until one organization decided to bring a school to them, inside a bag.

This mobile school package called School-in-a-Bag by Smart Communications, in cooperation with the Department of Education (DepEd), could be set up in several minutes that make teaching and instruction more convenient even in far-flung communities, where there are limited facilities for electricity and internet connection. One giant bag contains a solar panel for electricity, a laptop, a tablet, a mobile phone, a pocket Wi-Fi with starter load, LED TV, and learning modules that teachers can bring to their students.

“For so long, the Philippines has been divided by geography. This makes access to information extremely hard. Smart wants to unite the islands through internet connectivity. We go to schools in mountains, on isolated islands, places where there is no electricity, to bring School-in-a-Bag,” said Darwin Flores, Smart vice president for Community Partnerships.

Maria Asuncion Tongohan, a Kinder and Grade 1 teacher in Rawang Elementary School, said the kids were wide-eyed and somewhat shocked when they first saw the digital tools. She herself was very excited when the School-in-a-Bag arrived. “We really don’t have electricity here so when we saw the solar panel, we realized we could use technology in teaching.”

Teachers can now connect to the internet and download educational videos. Classes can also use the Batibot mobile application pre-installed in the tablet, the first learning app in Filipino that is aligned with the national Kindergarten curriculum of the DepEd.

Tongohan observed that the School-in-a-Bag gave students a deeper understanding of the lessons. “We can discuss the subjects more thoroughly with them because there’s a visual component in the lecture. Instead of us just talking or drawing on the blackboard, the videos make it more interesting for them, especially for the little kids who like colorful visuals.”

Attendance at Rawang Elementary School has also improved because the kids have something to look forward to every day and are excited about the lessons they will have for the day.

“Children in far-flung provinces need opportunities to get them out of poverty. For us who have the capabilities, the way for us to help them is to reach out. If anyone intends to help, you can contact us at DepEd so that we can tell you which school, where, and who you should be contacting and partnering with so that we can have more children in school, more teachers in this program, and the bag will be a bag of hope, a bag of learning, and bag for the future of our Filipino children,” says Ballesteros.

Individuals and organizations can bring the gift of digital learning to more public schools in the country by sponsoring a School-in-a-Bag. Each package costs P100,000. TechnoCart@smart.com.ph