/ 21 November 2020

ABOUT 10 percent of students in the country remain in the ‘dark ages’ as they live in communities without electricity and thus can’t participate in online learning, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said.

During his interpellation on the proposed 2021 budgets of the Department of Education and Department of Energy, Recto said 2.2 million students live in homes without electricity.

“Homes without electricity can be found in an urban setting, where families are too poor to connect to and pay for billed electricity,” he said.

Recto based his statement on the declaration of Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, sponsor of the DOE’s budget, that there are 2.3 million households that do not have electricity.

This, Recto said, translates to 10 percent of the population, and these are usually large families with many children.

That ratio, he explained, can be applied on school enrollment and it would be safe to say that 10 percent of the DepEd enrollees are from homes without light or power.

“So, kung 22.5 million ang DepEd enrollment this year, 10 percent of them are struggling under a new normal of education in which laptops and computers play an important role,” Recto said.

“Before the pandemic struck, we already had millions of unplugged children, not by choice, but by circumstance,” he added.

“Kung walang kuryente, paano ka makapanood ng lessons sa TV, or tatanggap ng assignments via email kung wala ngang power source ang cellphone mo?” Recto asked.

However, DepEd data showed that not only learners are hobbled by lack of power in their homes but schools as well. The department is rushing to connect 449 Last Mile Schools in far-flung areas to power grids.

The education department said it needs P3.8 billion to power up these schools, while the DOE said an aggressive sitio electrification program would require P25 billion to erase the backlog of 2.3 million household connections.