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DepEd needs P37 billion to provide laptops for distance learning

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Education (DepEd) needs about P37 billion to provide all teachers in the country with laptops and ensure data connectivity as the government continues to implement distance learning system due to the pandemic.

At the House budget hearing on the DepEd on Tuesday, Undersecretary Alain Pascua told lawmakers that the agency does not have enough funds to provide laptops and internet connection to all teachers.

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“We have a direction, we have a framework. In fact, we know how much funds we need. For example, if we will be providing all teachers with the needed laptops considering the existence of laptops that we have now, we still need P33 billion to provide everybody with laptops,” Pascua said.

“And then we need another P4 billion for data connectivity for next year for 12 months of connectivity. We have already made several programs, but always at the end of the day, it’s always the amount of funds needed for these programs that we are obviously lacking at this time,” he added.

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In August this year, Pascua said the DepEd would deliver 40,000 laptops to its teachers, schools and field offices for the continued implementation of its Basic Education-Learning Continuity Plan.

Connectivity problem

During the hearing, Pascua said the 211,000 units of laptops procured in 2019 had already been delivered while another 36,676 units purchased in 2020 were currently being delivered.

He added that 65,683 laptops were still being procured aside from the 40,000 units already procured this year under Bayanihan 2.

“What is really a matter of importance is the connectivity of these devices and sad to say the connectivity of these devices, when it comes to mandates of government agencies, will fall under the Department of Information and Communications Technology, because this is the laying down of infrastructure of data and internet connectivity throughout the country,” he said.

Less enrollees

At the same hearing, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the DepEd had recorded 25,582,224 enrollees a day after the opening of classes on Monday, still short of the 26,227,022 enrollees last year.

But Briones told lawmakers that they were expecting enrollment numbers for school year 2021-2022 to match that of the previous school year after the agency extended the enrollment until Sept. 30.

Meanwhile, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines party list staged a protest at the House of Representatives on Tuesday as Congress conducted its deliberation on the DepEd’s P589.2-billion budget proposal for 2022.

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The group called for increased funding for the safe reopening of schools and support for the implementation of distance learning.

“The Philippines is almost becoming a world record holder for the longest closure of schools amid the pandemic and it is infuriating that there is still no budget allocation for 2022 that will aid the safe reopening of schools,” said Raymond Basilio, secretary general of ACT.

The teachers’ group denounced the “Duterte administration’s ‘clear lack of plans to safely reopen schools anytime soon, judging by the budget allocated to DepEd.’”

It noted a 51-percent budget cut on the allocation for basic education facilities, from P11.1 billion in 2021 to P5.4 billion for 2022.

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TAGS: DepEd, distance education, laptops for online learning, Leonor Briones, online classes
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