Four years ago, Smart Communications, Inc. launched School-in-a-Bag (SIAB), a portable digital classroom designed to facilitate learning in basic education in remote areas without electricity, using mobile technology.
Unknowingly, it would become an essential solution for education to continue in the new normal.
Now more than ever before, as we rely on digital technology to continue communicating, doing business, and learning amid the restrictive environment of the global pandemic, the innovative learning kit has become a necessary tool.
Through various programs, the country’s largest integrated telco PLDT, its wireless arm, Smart, and other units have made possible the donation of 86 digital classroom kits to the Department of Education this school year.
A kit contains a laptop for the teacher, 20 tablets for students to access interactive applications even if offline, and a Smart LTE pocket WiFi which teachers can use to download additional content wherever there is power and connectivity.
As the 2020 schoolyear opened in October, PLDT turned over 15 kits in support of DepEd’s Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan.
In his remarks, PLDT Chairman and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan, said, “PLDT and Smart are one with DepEd in keeping teachers, students and the entire academic community connected. Accordingly, we have levelled up our efforts to provide tools, technology, and information during the pandemic.”
Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones responded: “We look forward to the continuity of this tradition of partnership, generosity, and advice as we work together with PLDT and Smart to look for new ways of delivering education to teachers and students.”
The same month, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Educational Organization (UNESCO) acknowledged the SIAB and other projects under the #LearnSmart advocacy “as programs for effective distance learning” during its Mobile Learning Week.
Smart, the only Philippine company at the event, was represented by AVP for Community Partnerships Stephanie V. Orlino. “We asked ourselves: how may we provide access to technology and to inclusive quality education to our last-mile schools?," she said, referring to thousands of schools isolated from community centers.
"Our answer is the School-in-a-Bag,” she said, as she explained how programs like School-in-a-Bag and the Central Visayan Institute Foundation–Dynamic Learning Program (CVIF-DLP) help ensure that learning continues in the new normal.
Since 2016, a total of 300 School-in-a-Bag units have reached 80,000 students and 2,000 teachers all over the country.
Part of SIAB donations were the fruit of joint efforts of broadband services provider PLDT Home, corporate business unit PLDT Enterprise, social outreach arm PLDT-Smart Foundation, Smart’s flagship corporate social responsibility (CSR) division Smart Communities, Smart Prepaid’s virtual campus Smart University, and an employee fund-raising initiative called Smart Saturdays.
In September students who joined Smart University activities earned points to be able to donate tablets. As a result, a hundred tablets are now being deployed to deserving schools in Basilan, Bohol, La Union, Quezon, and Sarangani, as part of the SIAB kits. Another five kits are on their way to Bukidnon.
“Beyond our brand’s lifestyle offerings, we aim to continuously provide innovative solutions in education,” said Jane J. Basas, SVP and Head of Consumer Wireless Business at Smart.
In July, Pangilinan also led the turnover of a SIAB donation to North Bay Boulevard North Elementary School in Navotas, Manila. The donation formed part of the $50,000 grant from Huawei Technologies Philippines, Inc. to the PLDT-Smart Foundation (PSF).
PLDT and Smart recognize quality education as a foundation in improving people’s lives and obtaining sustainable development. It is committed to help the Philippines attain the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, with SDG #4: Quality Education as a key area, with a strong emphasis on digital literacy.
As Secretary Briones pledged as she officially opened the school year on World Teachers’ Day, “We will not allow Covid-19 to destroy our children’s education and their future.”