Sitio Datal Basak may not always be visible in the eyes of the people in the flatlands, but it is never forgotten.

Cradled by the mountains of Maasim, Sarangani Province, and usually wrapped in thick mist, Sitio Datal Basak is home to a community of Blaans who rely on farming for their sustenance. Once sullied by the presence of a left-leaning organization, the establishment of the DepEd-run Datal Basak IP School and the road project, connected the once-isolated community to imminent progress.

Although it remains unenergized, the community relies on solar power to provide light at night. The solar power system donated to the school by its partners is an opportunity that the Schools Division of Sarangani took advantage of to realize one of its projects to help learners in last-mile schools.

Beyond learning continuity

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Education in Sarangani has always had as one of its priorities the continuation of learning in the far-flung communities of the province. These communities, even before the pandemic, have always belonged to disadvantaged areas due to being geographically isolated. With mobility being hampered by strict health and safety protocols, people in the hinterlands are even more left out.

In its learning continuity plan, DepEd Sarangani devised strategies to assist schools in the last mile. These schools have been prioritized in the provision of material support—in the form of boxes after boxes of bond paper and printers—and additional manpower through the deployment of learning support aides.

Beyond ensuring that learning continues, DepEd Sarangani is bringing e-learning to communities where it is deemed impossible.

No Internet, No problem

DepEd Sarangani has developed a system that makes learning resources accessible to learners through a wireless local area network. It is called Learning Resources on WiFi Hub for Expanded e-Learning in Sarangani or LR on WHEeLS. It aims to bring e-learning in areas where internet connection is not available.

With LR on WHEeLS, learners can connect to continue learning without leaving their homes. Learners can connect their gadgets to the network and access lessons through a learning management system.

Initially, the project was implemented in schools that have identified learners whose households have at least one electronic gadget that could be connected to WiFi in order to access learning resources. These gadgets may be a cellular phone, a tablet, or a laptop computer.

The project is currently being implemented in six schools in the province in collaboration with DepEd Sarangani’s partners, including the local government unit.

A Smart partnership

Recently, DepEd Sarangani’s LR on WHEeLS rolled to Datal Basak IP School in the hinterlands of Maasim, Sarangani Province.

In partnership with Smart Communication’s School-in-a-Bag Project, a new iteration called ‘Smart LR on WHEeLS Go’ was born. The School-in-a-bag contains a laptop, 20 tablets, and a solar generator.

The LR on WHEeLS team configured the School-in-a-bag to be used for LR on WHEeLS. The laptop is used as a server, where the learning management system and the learning materials are stored. The learning materials can be accessed by the learners who were given the tablets. While in their home, they can connect to the WiFi signal broadcast by the outdoor antenna that the LR on WHEeLS had set up. The tablets can be charged using the solar generator.

“I saw how the kids’ faces light up when they first used the tablets. Even I, myself, enjoyed the activities on LR on WHEeLS. The children of Datal Basak would really have a fun way to learn their lessons,” Renee Anga, the school principal of Datal Basak said.

Reaching out to more communities

The Smart LR on WHEeLS will stay at Datal Basak for a month and will be moved to another last-mile school.

“We want more learners to experience e-learning regardless of their location or situation. We continue to tap partners that could help up realize our goals or giving equal opportunity to all our learners,” Donna S. Panes, Chief of Curriculum Implementation Division said.

She added that the success of the implementation of the project relies on the commitment of the teachers. So, she encouraged them to “learn more about LR on WHEeLS and examine its features and capitalize on it to make learning happen.”

April Mae Domingo, Project Officer of Conrado and Ladislawa Alcantara Foundation, Inc., a constant partner of DepEd Sarangani, was also there during the turnover of the Smart LR on WHEeLS.

“We are contemplating on providing Datal Basak with tablets so that learning through LR on WHEeLS will continue,” Domingo said.

The LR on WHEeLS project of DepEd Sarangani is being used as a model by the Project Management Service of DepEd Central Office for its Asian Development Bank-funded EdTech Solutions for Last Mile School in the time of COVID-19 Pandemic.
With an allocation of over $2 million from ADB, the idea of LR on WHEeLS will spread to the provinces of Kalinga, Bohol, and Zamboanga Sibugay.

Soon, more learners in the country will experience what DepEd Sarangani brought for the children in Datal Basak.

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