In 2016, 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.
In hindsight, it would become an essential solution for education to continue in the new normal.
This year, as people rely on digital technology for communication, business, and learning amid the restrictive environment of the pandemic, SIAB has become a necessary tool.
Smart, its mother company PLDT and other units donated 86 digital classroom kits to the Department of Education (DepEd) 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.
When 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 chair 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 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.”
Likewise in October, 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 Orlino.
“We asked ourselves: how may we provide access to technology and to inclusive quality education to our last-mile schools?” Orlino said, referring to thousands of schools isolated from community centers. “Our answer is the School-in-a-Bag.”
She explained how programs like SIAB 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 SIAB 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.
Smart, its mother company PLDT and other units donated 86 digital classroom kits to the Department of Education this school year.
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 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. 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.