Press Release
May 3, 2016

Relief sought for 13,740 water-less, 7,403 electricity-less schools
'Schools lack WISE - water, internet, sanitation, electricity'

While gains have been made in greatly reducing teacher and classroom lack in public education, focus should now shift in addressing the shortfall of WISE -- water, internet, sanitation, electricity -- resources in many schools, Sen. Ralph Recto said.

Recto said the next administration should build on the success of present Department of Education (DepEd) officials led by Secretary Armin Luistro in erasing backlogs in other facilities which are equally important.

Recto cited the case of "water-less" schools which numbered 5,082, out of 46,847 nationwide, in the last count done in 2013.

In addition, 8,658 schools rely on rainwater catchment, "which renders them basically water-less," Recto said. This brings up the real total of water-less schools to 13,740.

Only 18,171 schools have piped-in water. The next biggest source are deep wells, on which 14,644 schools depend for their water needs, Recto said.

"Let's say one in every four schools lacks reliable, clean piped-in water, and you apply this ratio to the public enrolment of about 21 million, then easily about 5 million students go to school without water," he said.

With lack of water comes the problem of sanitation facilities, Recto said. "There is a toilet shortage in all schools and you don't need statistics to back that claim."

While the government had launched a program to construct more toilets, and classrooms with one, Recto said compared to the 493,669 classrooms nationwide, the toilet-to-room ratio "is very, very small."

Recto said the availability of water impacts not just on the health of students--one survey said 60 percent of gradeschoolers have intestinal worms--but also on school-based nutrition programs. "Paano ka magluluto kung wala kang tubig?"

As to electricity, 5,911 schools have none, while 1,492 make do with solar panels or generator sets, resulting in 7,403 schools not connected to any power grid, Recto said.

"Ito yung schools na araw-araw mistulang Earth Hour," he said, referring to the yearly global event when homes and officers switch off electricity for one hour.

"The bright spot in this data is that 1,492 schools have solar panels installed," Recto said.

The senator has advocated the mandatory installation of solar panels in all of 46,847 schools, "and using these to power up science laboratories so that students can have an actual example of a science lesson."

Recto said the next government should ramp up the computerization of schools. "The I in 'WISE' is not just internet but also stands for ICT or Information and Communications Technology."

While he lauded the P6.8 billion allocation in this year's DepEd budget for 7,368 "ICT packages", "this is just, however, the first phase of a good program."

"Eventually, we have to make all schools free Wi-Fi hotspots, install computers in libraries, and provide teachers with tablets. This should be our fighting target," Recto said.

"We also need to construct rooms to house computer banks because in 2013, 34,758 elementary schools had no dedicated computer room, and 2,406 high schools also reported having none," he said.

Recto said the ideal of "one tablet per teacher" is an affordable proposition.

"Magkano na lang ba ang tablet today? Sabi nila, P10,000 each kung bulk-buy, and multiply that with 500,000 teachers with teaching load, the bill would come up to P5 billion, less than two percent of DepEd's budget."

As to Wi-Fi availability, Recto is optimistic that the Free WiFi Program will cover most schools soon.

Recto has successfully sponsored the P3.05 billion funding for the "Free Wi-Fi Internet Access in Public Places Project," which aims to provide free broadband Internet access to 1,462 Class 1-6 municipalities, and 44 key cities nationwide.

This, plus the enactment of the law creating the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) "will spark the ICT revolution in schools," he said.

Among the mandates of the DICT is to formulate and implement national policies, plans, and programs which will promote the development and use of ICT in the education sector, Recto, who is the principal sponsor of the Congress-approved measure, explained.

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