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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, August 7, 2020
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Come To Think Of It
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

Power struggle


Despite the numerous flip flops, pointing to a disturbingly normalized lack of vision, direction and policy coming from the of the Department of Education and the President regarding the future of education in this country, it looks like, ready or not, the next few months of basic education for Filipino school kids will be spent online.

Kids enrolled in private schools will most likely be spending the next few months online. As for the public school system, nobody knows if the schools, teachers, students and parents are ready to go online but readiness is something we have learned as a nation to do away with during these past few months. Our dear leader’s midnight sessions where life-changing policies are expected to be implemented effective dawn have trained us that prior notice and preparation are no longer necessary. The resilient and uncomplaining Filipino is expected to make do with what we have when the time comes to do it.

We go online if our government says so, whether or not the schools are ready, or if internet service speeds and/or coverage is adequate. It doesn’t matter whether most of the teachers have the tools, devices and training necessary; if the students and parents have already taken out onerous loans from the local 5-6 due to purchase electronic devices or not. As soon as our leaders say go, we go! Hopefully without too much complaints, which as well-meaning doctors and health care workers have been made to realize, can now be mistaken as calling for revolution.

If online learning cannot work, then there is always TV or radio. If not, there is the telegram. Worst case, if we still don’t want to send our kids to a real school building, some of us may have to train carrier pigeons or learn to send smoke signals before SY 2020 starts.

The top 3 options for the eventual basic education of Filipino kids are internet, TV and radio. These three, while eons apart in terms of technology, have one common denominator: electricity. If the “new normal” of education is going to be anywhere near successful in the next couple of months, we will need our power industry to man up and become as reliable as it can be.

If you come to think of it, whatever our power companies did during the ECQ period was commendable. There was hardly any power interruption during those few months. Random brown outs didn’t happen that much and the 8-10 hour weekend specials were greatly reduced. Whatever they did then, many of us were hoping would be sustainable.

Unfortunately for the average electricity consumer, recent weeks have shown that the golden weeks of ECQ power reliability were apparently a fluke. The irony is that as the new normal school year approaches, power interruptions are also occurring with more frequency and intensity. Maybe this is why our dear leader envisioned the use of transistor radios as part of the future of education during one of his late night sessions. Only he was able to foresee that battery-powered transistor radios can counter the power problem that has been hounding his subjects for decades.

We will need reliable and good quality electric power as much as we need internet in the next couple of months if our educational system is going to succeed in this evolution to the new normal. Kids cannot drop out of online classrooms and have to reconnect every time the power goes out. Those who use laptops with healthy batteries, have desktops connected to UPS, or live in homes powered by off-grid solar or with gensets and ATS units cannot be disturbed when their teachers drop out of the classroom because power went out. We cannot afford to add the expensive computers that were purchased using loans to the list of home appliances that can be and have been destroyed by the frequent power interruptions and low voltage events that our AAA-rated power companies are famous for.

Hopefully it will be the demand for reliable and good quality electricity in the coming months that will finally force our electric companies to upgrade, innovate and become truly world class. The people who have been calling out electric companies for ages now have more reason to apply added pressure and if they do cave in and find the ways and means to improve the quality of their service, it would be a big win for everybody. If anything, there would be something that we can at least thank COVID-19 for.

Have the Department of Education, the Department of Information and Communications Technology, and the Department of Energy been talking about how they intend to pull off the great School Year of 2020? Only time will tell. The next couple of months will show if any improvements or preparations have been made or if, as usual, the Filipino people will have to make their own adjustments and make their leaders proud of their beautifully stoic resiliency once more.*  

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