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INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON

For islet, solar-powered teaching tools

MAUBAN, Quezon—Nearly a decade ago, pupils of Cagbalete I Annex Elementary School in Mauban town in Quezon had cursed bad weather for darkness would sweep their classrooms and make for dull learning.

On rare occasions, a class would rent a television run by a generator set for use in some of the subjects, recalls Ron Pelejo, an alumnus who now works as a news reporter of dzCT-FM in Tayabas City.

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In fact, most of the farming and fishing families on Cagbalete Island in Lamon Bay considered the absence of electricity as part of life. One enterprising resident with a generator set would sell electricity to his neighbors from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Pelejo says.

That was in 2003, before the people of Cagbalete, 45 minutes by boat—weather permits—from the Mauban port, saw the light from solar panels.

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Dale Francis Rutagenes, who is in Grade 6, echoes the excitement of the rest of the 283 pupils in Cagbalete I Annex Elementary School when a solar-powered multimedia-based education facility became accessible to them. Studying with help from “moving pictures adds more fun to learning,” he says in Filipino.

Rutagenes is describing the experience of his class during the inauguration of the school’s “solar photovoltaic (PV) project” on Dec. 1, 2011. It was put up through a partnership of the Alliance for Mindanao and Multiregional Renewable/Rural Energy Development III (Amore), Quezon Power Philippines Ltd. (QPL), the Department of Education, and the municipal government.

During the launching, close to 500 pupils also received notebooks, slippers, bags and other school items gifts from Amore and its partners.

Solar panels capture the sun’s energy in the photovoltaic cells of three batteries, which convert it into electricity. The system can supply at most six hours of continuous electricity, says Dave Balleza, director for technical and engineering of Amore 3 program.

One panel at the back of a classroom can store 440 watts and run the school’s educational media facility—actually a DVD player and TV set—which uses E-Media (Education thru Multi-Media) TV program and information video discs as teaching tools.

Danalyn Serbillon, who teaches science, says her students had found it easy to understand their lessons since the system began to operate in June. “Absences are less as the students are all excited to know more,” she says.

Herminiano Cañete, the principal, says the use of audiovisual equipment through the system enhances the conventional teaching modules.

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Since 2002, Amore’s rural electrification program has energized 475 remote off-grid villages in Mindanao, using stand-alone renewable energy systems such as the PV solar system and microhydroelectric technology. To date, the agency and its partners—US Agency for International Development, Department of Energy, SunPower Foundation and Winrock International—have given access to solar technology to at least 65 rural schools since late 2009.

Amore also offers education, water and other basic services to off-grid rural schools and communities.

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TAGS: Alternative Energy, Education, Solar power
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