Monday, November 2, 2009

eSkwela-Kalumpang Ravaged by Ondoy

Who would’ve thought that on September 26, 2009, the loss of many lives and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people will occur?

Typhoon Ondoy was initially thought of like anyone of the hundreds of storms to hit the country. Little did people know the catastrophe that lay ahead. Ondoy has managed to strike the county bringing along with it a month's worth of rainfall to Metro Manila and nearby areas in just a few hours. People were left unprepared and were simply at a loss when the storm has finally shown its true effect.

A lot of cities were submerged in floodwater. Cars were left floating in the street. Transportation was in chaos. Friends and families were out trying to get hold of their loved ones’ whereabouts. Everything was simply amiss.

In Barangay Kalumpang, Marikina where a newly established eSkwela center was located, water level ranged from knee deep to over first floor houses. At the center itself, everything was in morbid disarray with mud all over the place. Items are still there but they are no longer usable or cannot even be repaired. Computer units and its peripherals such as speakers, headsets and the likes were all covered in mud and so were the records, books, modules, tables, and chairs.

What could’ve been a fun and innovative way of ICT-based learning was put to a halt. The center’s learning facilitator, Ms. Ivy Coney Gamatero, had to work hard on restoring normalcy. What with the out of school youth and adult learners bent on passing the Accreditation and Equivalency Exam, they had to make do with what they have. Below is a picture showing the eSkwela-Kalumpang before and after the typhoon has staked its claim.

Despite the disruption and material losses felt, they were happy that everyone is safe and lives were spared. Right now they are still trying to get the support of anyone, including their local partners and stakeholders, who would be willing to impart computers, cash, or any form of donation. Learning sessions may take some time before it can be back to its regular scheme but as far as everyone’s concerned, tomorrow is another day to stand tall and face the new challenges that await.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Local Partners Open New eSkwela Centers

At the eSkwela center in Siay, Zamboanga Sibugay, learning facilitators teach eSkwela learners how to use the e-learning modules and module guides.

Local partnerships paved the way for the establishment of 13 more eSkwela centers in the country.

Through the initiative of different implementers, such as Department of Education (DepEd) divisions, local government units (LGUs), non-government organizations (NGOs), schools, and civic groups, 21 eSkwela centers are up and running as of September 2009.

eSkwela centers accommodate out-of-school youth and adults (OSYAs), enabling them to attend information and communication technology (ICT)-based learning sessions. With the help of learning facilitators, OSYAs undergo learning sessions, which make use of digitized modules and a learning management system.

Through these learning sessions, OSYAs can acquire relevant life skills, prepare for the Accreditation and Equivalency Exam (A and E Exam), and finish their high school education, among others. Those who pass the A and E Exam, which is administered by DepEd, receive a high school diploma.

New centers established

In Luzon, the new eSkwela centers are located in Baguio City; San Fernando City, La Union; Laoag City, Ilocos Norte; Boac, Marinduque; and San Fernando, Camarines Sur.

eSkwela Baguio City is spearheaded by the Save our Street Children Foundation, a non-government organization, while eSkwela San Fernando City is led by the San Fernando Christian Community.

The eSkwela centers in Boac, Marinduque; Laoag City, Ilocos Norte; and San Fernando, Camrines Sur are led by their local DepEd divisions and LGUs. eSkwela San Fernando, Camarines Sur is the first mobile laboratory in the country. (See the story Bringing Alternative Learning Closer to OSYAs).

In the Visayas, the new eSkwela center, which is led by the local DepEd division and LGU, is located in Tanauan, Leyte.

Seven eSkwela centers were set up in Mindanao. These are in the cities of Davao, Digos, Pagadian, and Oroquieta and in the municipalities of Asuncion, Davao del Norte; Isulan, Sultan Kudarat; and Siay, Zamboanga Sibugay. These centers were established through the support of local DepEd divisions and LGUs.

Other stakeholders also include Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao, which is an active partner of eSkwela in Davao City, Digos City, Asuncion, and Isulan, Sultan Kudarat. In Oroquieta City, the eSkwela center was sponsored by the local DepEd division, the Misamis Occidental National High School and the Parents, Teachers and Community Association.

The four eSkwela pilot sites are located in Roces, Quezon City; San Jose del Monte, Bulacan; Cebu City, and Cagayan de Oro City. These were followed by eSkwela centers in Ormoc City, Zamboanga City, Loyola Heights, Quezon City, and Kalumpang, Marikina City.

Need for local support

The Commission on Information and Communications Technology, through the Human Capital Development Group, works closely with the Department of Education, particularly the Bureau of Alternative Learning Systems, in bringing ICT-enhanced educational opportunities for Filipino OSYAs.

The establishment of new eSkwela centers would not be possible without the initiative and support of local partners and stakeholders though. Through these partnerships, additional eSkwela centers are established and more OSYAs in the country are provided with free alternative learning opportunities.

Related Stories:
First batch of eSkwela scholars in Tanauan ready to take DepEd's October 11 A&E test

Davao City DepEd launches eSkwela pilot center in Region XI
New computer sets given to Tanauan’s CeC

Monday, October 5, 2009

The eSkwela Experience (contribution from WMSU)

Below are testimonials from two WMSU team members who are involved in the eSkwela Content Development Project...eSkwela touches lives indeed. =D

Maycibel Rodriguez, Pool Leader (eSkwela developer)

I have only been on a rollercoaster ride once, and the experience was enough to last me a lifetime. Every time the car twisted up and hurled down at a speed only theoretical physicists with an “unusual” sense of humor can appreciate, I mentally screamed a prayer to every saint I can think of. Considering I was a mere jumble of barely suppressed fear and excitement, the ability to even think of trivial thoughts at that time was no small feat. However, it was one of those experiences that can make you look back and cringe but at the same time grin like a fool. It was good because it was bad. My e-Skwela experience was something close to that fateful rollercoaster ride, only better.

I can still remember clearly the day our Department Head told us about the project. When she laid out the description of the project, the requirements, the time frame, and the compensation, well, you might say we sort of focused on the last part. The rest was a bit vague but we figured it was worth a try.

Actually, during the first three to four months of the project development, that was exactly what we did – we tried. Boy, did we try. Between our classes, students, scripts, media, and whatever little personal life we had left, we had to juggle our time, effort, creativity, and consciousness (getting three hours of sleep became our definition of a “good night sleep”). There were even times when I came close to pulling my hair out of frustration, but only because I thought it was impolite to yank someone else’s hair right off their scalp. Ok, that sounded harsh, but thankfully that’s all water under the bridge now.

The thing was, the project was something new to all of the members in the team – we’ve never done any flash programming, we never thought that learning Adobe Photoshop can be life-changing (it used to be one of the unused applications in my PC), we’ve never had to deal with different sets of people with different perspectives and requirements (and we had to consider all of them), we’ve never designed interactive course content, and we never thought that trips to Manila and Bataan will be a monthly activity (for nine consecutive months, no less). In short, it was the first time we ever ventured so far away from our comfort zones. Looking back, I’d say those were the “cringe” moments of the whole experience. The turning point came with the first Beta Review.

The night before our flight for Manila and Bataan for the first Beta Review, we were still working on the last topic of one of our modules. There were still illustrations to draw and polish. The audio was yet to be edited and joined with the video, and of course, the whole thing was yet to be programmed and published. At that time we were working at the library of the college. However, when 11pm came and it was clear that we will need more time to finish everything, we decided to take everything to my home and finish it there where it was safer and the supply of electricity was more stable. We continued working until dawn. The flight for Manila was scheduled for 7 am. I started to pack at 4 am. We finished all media and programming at 5am. Publishing took nearly an hour to finish. Finally, around 6 am we were on our way to the airport. Standing there at the side of the highway waiting for a jeepney, I saw a plane making its final descend and I thought about my flight. Suddenly, it hit me. That must be the same plane for my flight! However, my home is approximately 12 kilometers away from town and the airport, and there was not one jeepney in sight yet. I fought down the panic and just refused to think that I will be late for my flight.

Luckily I was right, and everything went well for our trip. Better yet, we were able to get some sleep before leaving for Bulacan early the following day. Moreover, the review was a success. I was ready to fall asleep again on my feet but I knew I still had to fight it off for at least 2 more hours (I was awake for 24 hours straight, and slept for 4, so go figure). However, seeing the enthusiasm and excitement of the participants was like watching the final piece of the puzzle fall into place. Somehow, it all finally made sense – the design requirements, the language and the tone, and the impact that the modules can make on the lives of the learners.

After that, we somehow had a better understanding of what we should aim for. It also became easier to manage our time to accommodate any last minute changes or adjustments. Furthermore, we expanded the team to include a number of selected students to help us in the development.

Like a rollercoaster ride, the e-Skwela experience had its share of highs and lows. However, I now understand that the only way to get to the former is to go through the latter. To date, all of our 20 modules have been certified by the Department of Education, making us the first SUC to have all their modules certified. Knowing that and looking back, I find myself grinning like a fool because well, yes, it sure feels good to know I was able to make it through alive, in one piece, my sanity intact, and with two or three new skills to boot. Best of all I have come to know and made friends with a lot of people – Ma’am Nida and all the reviewers from DepEd BALS, Ma’am Lydia and the members of her team, Doc Lloyd and his team of experts, and of course Ma’am Mel, Jops and the rest of the e-Skwela team.

In one way or another, I believe I speak for the entire WMSU team when I say that although the e-Skwela project has initiated a paradigm shift in our way of teaching and learning, we prefer to think that through the project we were able to make a difference in the lives of other people.

Mel Sheena Carballo, student developer

This eSkwela project started when some of the modules were given to us as part of the requirements for the Software Engineering subject. Instead of doing the usual softwares, I decided to be part of something new so I volunteered to be in one of the groups that would handle the assigned modules. At first, I thought that it would be very difficult since we had to make a software that teaches instead of keeping records, but I took it as a challenge.

As we were developing the module assigned to our team, I have learned the importance of education, that not everyone is given the chance to formal education. Upon knowing the objectives of the eSkwela project, I have realized that through this project, the out-of-school learners can also be educated through this type of learning system that employs the use of softwares as instructional materials. That is why our team really did the best that we can to be able to present our topic in a way that can easily be understood especially by the out-of-school learners. I also learned to be patient and be cooperative with my team because no matter how difficult things get, as long as there is patience and cooperation, everything will be alright.

As the saying goes, “Success is a journey, not a destination; the doing is more important than the outcome”, and for me, how we developed this project is more meaningful. Through this project, I was able to do things for the first time. Together with my team, I lived in a house for a couple of months, had sleepless nights, acted and did voice-overs. And, the most meaningful of all are the memories that I have shared together with my friends and teachers. I was able to have good friends through my team. I really enjoyed their company. Some of the things that I cannot forget about them were when we had to be actors for our own scripts and would end up laughing just by seeing ourselves in those videos, when we had to conduct meetings at midnight regarding our presentations to the client for the next morning. All of these were thanks to the eSkwela project.

My eSkwela experience is one of the things that I will treasure for the rest of my life. I am very grateful to have been given this opportunity to be part of it.

Friday, July 24, 2009

ICT World Today article - RRC on eSkwela

This article was published in the Summer 2009 edition of the "ICT World Today" journal by the Korea Information Society Development Institute. The journal is distributed internationally.

It's entitled "Empowering the Underserved through ICT" - it starts off with a discussion of CICT's efforts in harnessing Broadband and Mobile Technologies then continues on how ICTs are being maximized to provide better access to quality way would be through eSkwela.

Click on this link to view the article: ICT World Today - RRC

Hail! Hail! eSkwela is gaining ground in terms of advocacy - not only locally but also internationally.

Please stay tuned for the notice on the availability of the UNESCO-Bangkok's publication on eSkwela...coming really soon.

Bringing Alternative Learning Closer to OSYAs

How a husband-and-wife team brought the eSkwela Project to the out-of-school youth and adults of San Fernando, Camarines Sur

by Carl Bailey, Lenay EnseƱado and Ave Mejia

For Joaquin “Jack” Olitoquit of San Fernando, Camarines Sur, what started out as a search for a plastic disc led to accidentally discovering the eSkwela Project, and ended up in him jointly establishing the first mobile eSkwela Center in the country.

No stranger to community service, Jack was at the forefront of addressing the plight of San Fernando’s farmers as a community organizer, having been a farmer himself. He was also involved in parish work; with his trusty motorcycle, he rode through rebel-infested areas to deliver medicine to the outskirts of Camarines Sur. Currently, he is a consultant of the municipal government, working on development and livelihood projects for San Fernando.

Jack is not alone in his passion for serving the community. His wife, Rose, is a DepED District Alternative Learning System (ALS) Coordinator; she spends her time going from one barangay to another as she conducts learning sessions for out-of-school youth and adults (OSYAs). In San Fernando, a fourth-class municipality where farming is the main source of livelihood, one third of school-aged children has dropped out of the formal education system or has not enrolled in high school after finishing Grade Six. They end up tending to farms and working in construction projects; some venture abroad as domestic helpers – just as their parents and grandparents did in years past. Through these hard-luck locals, the cycle of poverty continues its painful course.

The task of teaching OSYAs is not an easy one. Apart from the challenge of getting them to sign up as ALS learners, Rose has to make sure that the OSYAs stay on as ALS learners. She has to be creative and keep them motivated, with the hope that they become functionally literate, perhaps even acquire knowledge and skills equivalent to a high school education.

Jack witnessed firsthand how his wife takes on this challenge. He sees her sorting through worn-out print modules, spending her own money for photocopying additional copies once the modules become unusable. One night after supper, Jack asked how he can help her improve on these materials; Rose mentioned that the modules are available in compact disc (CD) and that it would greatly help her if she could obtain a clear master copy by printing the modules straight from the CD, and reproducing these instead.

By then, Jack could now do something to help his wife.

Trip to Manila

Jack immediately took the eight-hour bus ride to Manila in order to obtain the CD from the DepED main office. Upon his arrival, he was advised by the DepED - Bureau of Alternative Learning System (BALS) to also go to the eSkwela Center in Roces Avenue, Quezon City where he can get a copy of the CD. Once he was at the Center, Angelyn Malabanan, an eSkwela learning facilitator, was generous enough to provide him not only a copy of the CD but also a walk-through on how ALS sessions are conducted there, albeit with a technological twist.

At the eSkwela Center, the learners use electronic, multimedia and interactive versions of the ALS print modules (the modules are converted and developed by CICT, DepED-BALS, and eSkwela’s partner State Universities and Colleges, or SUCs). ALS Mobile teachers and Instructional Managers, doubling as eSkwela learning facilitators, engage their learners in discussions and exercises through the Learning Management System (LMS) software. The learners treat Internet educational websites as an immense library, and create individual and collaborative projects using the Center’s computer and digital equipment, online resources and open-source software.

At that point, Jack was not satisfied in bringing just the CD back home to his wife. He has to bring the eSkwela Center to the OSYAs of San Fernando.

Before his return trip, he swung by the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), where the eSkwela Project holds office, and sought assistance on how to set-up their own eSkwela. After meeting the eSkwela Project Team, Jack was now armed with the initial know-how on the basic setup requirements; he could not wait to share the concept of eSkwela to his wife as he headed back home.

Laptops instead of desktops

Upon bringing the news on eSkwela to his wife, who by then was equally interested to it, they have drawn up initial eSkwela setup plans - and realized that a mobile version of eSkwela would better serve the highland and coastal barangays of San Fernando. This was also recommended by CICT upon consulting with the eSkwela Project Team, who made recommendations on its infrastructure and technical requirements. Afterwards, the couple were on their way in figuring out where to get the laptop units for eSkwela.

Jack presented the idea to San Fernando Mayor Fermin Mabulo, who made no hesitation in throwing his support to the initiative, having been involved in ALS programs for indigenous peoples before entering politics. Mayor Mabulo immediately facilitated the request for the needed equipment.

Although they have secured the mayor’s support, local partisan politics made the request process more difficult than it should have been. They were only able to acquire two laptops in their initial request, barely enough to service one barangay. Nevertheless, by December of last year, they were able to test the eSkwela model and conduct demos to municipal officials – with the hope that they will see the benefits and opportunities eSkwela can bring to the OSYAs.

eSkwela Conference and CICT’s site visit

The couple found additional motivation to overcome the hurdles in their eSkwela implementation by receiving an invitation to CICT’s eSkwela Conference, having championed the project in their community. Held last April in Batangas, the Conference was a gathering of individuals and groups who are involved in eSkwela’s different project components. There they were able to interact with the other participants – LGUs, local DepED offices, civic, church and non-government organizations - who also share the same commitment and face the same challenges. The Conference’s forums, talks and workshops were all geared towards helping the project stakeholders work in synergy. As their conference output, Jack and Rose helped prepare an eSkwela strategic plan not only for their Center but also for their province the rest of the Bicol Region. But first things first, though – Jack and Rose had to start with San Fernando before they go beyond it.

Throughout the next three months, the couple and three DepED-Camarines Sur ALS mobile teachers / instructional managers – Lleza Orias, Helen Tunay, and Merly Lleva – underwent CICT’s training on the eSkwela Instructional Model. Through this training, they have also prepared the personnel requirements of an eSkwela Center, while waiting for their infrastructure requirements to be addressed. While it seemed that their request for equipment was falling on deaf ears, CICT made a timely intervention by conducting a field visit to Camarines Sur. The bottleneck that was partisan politics was partially remedied, and three more laptop units were issued to the proposed eSkwela Center – bringing the total units to five.

With the staff and equipment now ready, they can move on to the next step of conducting the eSkwela learning sessions.

eSkwela in San Fernando – and beyond

On June 29, the eSkwela Center of San Fernando formally started its operations. Not only is it the first eSkwela center in Camarines Sur and in the entire Bicol region, it is also the first to adapt the mobile model. Serving the OSYAs in an initial eight barangays (Buenavista, Del Pilar, Beberon, Lupi, Bocal, Pamukid, Planza, Sta. Cruz), the couple and the three ALS implementers are now full-fledged eSkwela learning facilitators and are able to optimally use the computers as a tool for learning. They have organized a schedule to cover each of the eight barangays. The LGU’s multicab is being used to transport the laptops from one barangay to another. In turn, the barangays chip in by providing for the electricity and a shaded or enclosed area as a stop-over station for the mobile eSkwela Center. While Internet service has yet to be made available in these remote barangays, they plan to hold some of the eSkwela sessions at the municipal hall’s premises in order to take advantage of the available Wi-Fi Internet connection. A wireless Internet broadband USB receiver will also be purchased so the laptops will have access to the Internet without leaving the barangays.

eSkwela San Fernando aims to serve ninety OSYAs for its inaugural year. While waiting for the additional laptops, the couple is currently busy engaging the rest of San Fernando and Camarines Sur to replicate the eSkwela model. They are now coordinating with CICT, DepED-BALS and its division office, the LGUs of San Fernando and Camarines Sur for the conduct of an eSkwela teacher training workshop in September, which will be participated in by seven potential eSkwela Centers in the province. They have also facilitated meetings with three public high schools in Lupi, San Fernando and Pamukid, eyeing the possibility of integrating eSkwela and sharing its computer labs to OSYAs.

Jack and Rose Olitoquit hopes that they have given the OSYAs enough reason to stay on as ALS learners through the technology-infused alternative learning at the eSkwela Center, and by gaining life skills or at most a secondary-level education, give them a chance to break the vicious cycle of poverty.

Which for Jack, is not too bad a bonus in what started out as his search for a plastic disc.

The eSkwela Project, a word play on the Filipino equivalent of "school", is a flagship project of the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) through its Human Capital Development Group (HCDG), in partnership with DepED – Bureau of Alternative Learning System (BALS) and local community partners, that is envisioned to provide ICT-enhanced educational opportunities for Filipino out-of-school youth and adults. It likewise aims to help reduce the digital divide and enhance the capacity of these individuals to be successful participants in a global and knowledge-based economy. The initiative responds directly to a national development priority and will bring elearning opportunities and ICT for learning resources to mobile teachers / instructional managers and out-of-school learners in the Philippines in an exciting, innovative, and locally meaningful way.

For further inquiries, you may send an email to or contact the eSkwela Project Management Office at +6329286105 local 21/22.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

News: New Implementers Complete Trainings

Future eSkwela implementers participated in the Basic Training on the Alternative Learning System (ALS) last April 20-24, 2009 at the De La Salle University. The ALS Basic Training is a pre-requisite for organizations who want to put up an eSkwela center. It acquaints the participants as to how the ALS program is implemented with emphasis on the instructional strategies that can be used in educating out-of-school youth and adults.

A highlight of the training is the immersion at Baranggay Singalong, which allowed the participants to live the life of an instructional manager (IM). During the immersion, the participants talked to the baranggay council to gain their support for the ALS program and conducted house visits to find potential learners.

At the end of the 5-day workshop 25 individuals are now considered as IMs. The new IMs came from Relief Mission International, Manchester, Operation Big Brother, Gawad Kalinga, Camp Bridge School, Quezon City Jail, San Fernando, La Union; and Holy Trinity.

The new IMs, plus DepED - San Fernando, Camarines Sur, also attended a Learning Faciliators' Training held at DMAD Laboratory, CICT-NCC Building, last May 27-29, making them full-fledged learning facilitators capable of conducting eSkwela sessions in their own localities.

- Liset

Thursday, May 7, 2009

ALS Training for Instructional Managers

Liset and I participated in the Basic Training Course on Alternative Learning System (ALS) for Instructional Managers (IM). We did this so that we can further understand the ALS curriculum and its approach to teaching and learning. It is important that we truly understand ALS so that our trainings in eSkwela will really be in accordance to the ALS approach with the application of information and communications technologies (ICT). I believe this is the first time that staff from eSkwela has undergone an ALS training. Prior to the training, all we know about ALS is confined in what we read in the published materials from DepED as well as stories and anecdotes from various eSkwela and ALS implementers. Now at least through this training we gained a better understanding of what the ALS approach is, as well as the duties and responsibilities of an ALS IM.

ALS applies the principles of adult learning for teaching and learning. ALS practices the experiential learning approach, which is also known as the 4 As*, namely:

  1. Activity – Through a learning activity, learners experience and acquire new knowledge and skills.
  2. Analysis – Learners need time to process or analyze their experiences. New knowledge and skills have to be linked to what they already know and can do.
  3. Abstraction – Through processing and analyzing their new experiences and linking them with existing experiences, learners begin to demonstrate new understandings and apply new skills through generalization or abstraction.
  4. Application – Through application, learners try out new skills and learning.

This is an essential approach because the learners that come to the ALS programs are adults and they bring a wealth of experience, which, when tapped properly, can make learning effective for them. The training design for the instructional managers also applied the same principles.

We found that the teaching and learning in ALS is very flexible. There are a number of learning strategies that can be applies such as structured learning sessions, tutorials, group study, etc. The DepED Bureau of Alternative Learning System also make use of a number of instructional materials. There are print modules, audio based instruction, and the eSkwela e-Learning modules.

One of the highlights of this training is the community immersion where participants went house to house in Barangay Singalong in order to do a survey of out of school youth and adults. Here we found that we have an alarming literacy problem. In about an hour of house to house visits on a rainy summer afternoon, we found more than 40 out of school youth and adults who have not finished basic education. In every house that we went there are about 2 members of the residents who have school aged children that are out of school, or adults who have not completed basic education. Among the reasons for dropping out of school was because of peer pressure and lack of financial resources. We see that there is really a need for a program like ALS and eSkwela in order to be able to bring education especially to the underserved. After all, education is a fundamental human right (UNESCO).

Another highlight of the training was the demonstration teaching of two of the participants. Both of them prepared interesting teaching materials and learning activities that apply the principles of adult learning.

Another significant highlight of the training was the role playing activity on counseling. Counseling is seen as a very important role that an ALS IM will play as part of his/her responsibility. Counseling is helpful during the recruitment and enrollment of learners, identification of learning needs, during the conduct of actual learning sessions, evaluation of learning and after completing the Accreditation and Equivalency Exam.

The training concluded with the awarding of certificates to the participants and the awarding of tokens to our trainers from the Department of Education National Capital Region, namely Dr. Virginia Silvestre, ALS NCR Chief, Dr. Felicino Trongco, ALS NCR Assistant Chief, Dr. Baltazar Gayem, ALS Supervisor of DepED-Valenzuela City and Dr. Diosdado Medina, ALS Supervisor of DepED-Muntinlupa City.

*From the “Handbook for the Instructional Managers in the Nonformal Education Accreditation and Equivalency (NFE A&E) System” by the Department of Education Bureau of Alternative Learning System, Pasig City, Philippines.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Resources for the promotion of literacy

Google, LitCam and the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning have collaborated to form The Literacy Project, a website containing various resources on reading and education.

In this website one can search for books, scholarly articles, videos, and innovative projects that promote literacy through the help of Google's information search features. One can also link up with educators, organizations, clubs and groups that engage in reading as well as child and adult literacy.

For more information you may visit the website of The Literacy Project at

Monday, April 27, 2009

Shaping the Future Through Synergy

All roads led to a summer getaway at the heart of Lian, Batangas on the 31st of March.

Participants from all over the country - implementers, learners, community partners and donors, eSkwela regional coordinators, State Universities and Colleges (SUC) content developers, and module guide developers - trooped to Matabungkay Beach Resort and Hotel to attend the 2nd eSkwela Conference organized by the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) and co-sponsored by Batangas State University (BatSU).

Top Left: eSkwela Conference organizers - CICT and BatSU- get busy as participants start to register at the lobby of Matabungkay Beach Resort and Hotel. Top Right: eSkwela Project Manager Maria Melizza Tan delivers eSkwela Project Overview. Bottom Left: eSkwela Project Manager Maria Melizza Tan, Dr. Lloyd Espiritu of De La Salle University, IdeaCorp Chief Executive Emmanuel C. Lallana, Commissioner Consuelo S. Perez of CICT-Human Capital Development Group, Batangas State University President Dr. Nora Magnaye and eSkwela Project Officer Christina Maureen Salang pose for the camera. Bottom Right: Commissioner Perez awards Certificate of Appreciation to Keynote Speaker Ms. Evangeline Lourdes Arroyo-Bernas, Southeast Asia Policy Officer of World Wide Fund for Nature - Philippines.

The first day of the three-day event was certainly charged with energy and excitement. Almost 170 participants, many of them meeting for the first time, were expectant to get together with their fellow attendees and learn from the Conference. You could easily see eagerness from the participants, even if they just had a grueling trip from their respective residences, as well as from the organizers, who have prepared for almost three months for the Conference.

Top left: eSkwela Conference participants set action plans. Top right: Facing the open forum were Prof. Patricia Arinto of the University of the Philippines - Open University, eSkwela learner Bianca Nina Densing, Instructional Manager Irene Barzaga and eSkwela Project Officer Christina Maureen Salang. Bottom left: Rotary Club of Marikina South member Alerta Paz presents the Adopt-a-learner Program of eSkwela - Kalumpang. Bottom right: eSkwela Conference participants pose with Director Carolina S. Guerrero of the Bureau of Alternative Learning Systems - Department of Education.

From the first ocular inspection to checking of the conference venue, finalizing list of participants to sending out invitation letters, design of Conference collaterals to securing all equipment, finalizing room arrangements to checking meal preparation, task briefing to dry run, distribution of evaluation forms to check out and reimbursements, the eSkwela Project team with the help of our BatSU counterpart labored to ensure the success of the Conference.

Justify FullTop left: Participants are all up for fun (under the sun) during the eSkwelympics. Top right: Module guide developers dance to the tune of "Sway" during the luau. Bottom Left: Congressman Rozzano Rufino Biazon of Muntinlupa City delivers a message during the third day. Bottom right: eSkwela Project team and BatSU staff relax after the Conference.

And true to the objectives of the Conference, the event became a venue for dialogue and interaction among the different eSkwela partners and stakeholders. Concrete ideas and steps for improved project implementation were generated, and working relationships were also strengthened. The participants were able to set action plans, participate in knowledge exchanges, identify success factors, and shape the future through synergy.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

2nd eSkwela Conference

Everyone's excited about the 2nd eSkwela Conference to be held week after next in Lian, Batangas.

The team is in the thick of preparations - coordinating heavily with the counterpart team from the Batangas State University, finalizing the program of activities, list of participants and Resource Persons.

Exciting. Stressful. Frustrating at times. Confusing, too.

But we are confident that we'll pull through with flying colors. Right, team?

It matters a lot that we believe in the project that we have come to love...and know that we can rely on each other to make things work, despite the numerous constraints and challenges.

To all the invited participants, we promise you an informative, fun-filled 4-day event! See you there!

- mel

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Learner Interview in Zamboanga

My grandmother use to say that her kids had to go through such grueling tasks just to enter school; from selling all sorts of food products to walking hours and hours just to reach school premises. Again and again, she would point out that education is the only thing that she can give her kids once all else comes to an end for her. That was why education was, is, and always will be a big deal for us – having spent my childhood years with her and all that.

But you see I never knew first-hand how it would be to make such efforts just to enter school so most of the time I have to rely on stories in order to appreciate the value of education more and more.

So here goes one of those stories…

Just recently I had an opportunity to visit our eSkwela site in Zamboanga City and I sure am grateful to have met quite a lot of people. It was also then and there that I shared a meaningful exchange with Ate Shirley.

Ate Shirley is a third year high school drop out. Married young and now has a 4 year-old son whom she adores. She said that a few months back her husband used to work in Basilan and their family had to endure the condition of being with so many rebels hovering within the vicinity. It was only on the latter part of the year of 2008 that they decided to move back to Zamboanga and start their own sari-sari store. It was the perfect set-up since she now has it in her own hands to help settle their financial whereabouts and take care of her son at the same time. One thing was quite amiss though, somehow she wanted more.

It's a good thing that her neighbor, who's also a district ALS coordinator, told her about eSkwela. She said that she never would've thought that she'll have the opportunity to continue her studies. Armed with her notebook, pen, and sheer determination to learn she continues to strive forward for herself and her family. She then makes it a point to allot her Friday mornings to go to the center even if she had to spend sixty pesos for her back and forth fare. Indeed, looking at her discuss the Circulatory System with her seat mate while she was making notes to bring home that day placed a smile deep in my gut.

Hers is but one of the few stories that was waiting to be heard that afternoon and I did manage to hear a few more but then Ate Shirley's story was just my 'it' for the day. A classic example as to why I'd still have to salute my Lola Cion for her unwavering stance on the value education.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

News: Eighth eSkwela Center Launched in Kalumpang

eSkwela – Kalumpang is the newest addition to the roster of eSkwela centers in the country.

Launched last February 2, 2009, the eighth eSkwela site serves the needs of out-of-school youths and adults residing in Barangay Kalumpang, Marikina City. Mobile teacher Ivy Coney Gamatero, who will be handling the learning sessions, is now bringing in eSkwela learners. A total of 39 learners, including Maicar Llaver, 34, a baker, enrolled in eSkwela. During the orientation of eSkwela learners, Llaver said: “Hindi na po tinapay ang hawak ko kundi computer na.”

The establishment of the eSkwela center was made possible through the efforts of CICT, ALS – Marikina City; Barangay Kalumpang; and Rotary Club of Marikina South. CICT has already provided 41 learning modules; six of which have been newly certified by ALS. ALS – Marikina City will be sending in mobile teachers, while Barangay Kalumpang will be shouldering the operational expenses of the eSkwela center. Barangay Kalumpang will also be allotting a center solely for eSkwela use.

The Rotary Club of Marikina South started new programs, which are exclusive to eSkwela learners. Rotarians will be serving as mentors, guiding the learners as they go on with the sessions, through the “Adopt-a-learner” program. They will also be giving college scholarships to eSkwela graduates, who get to pass the Accreditation and Equivalency Exam. Scholars can enroll at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Marikina.

Present at the eSkwela – Kalumpang launch were Director Carolina S. Guerrero of DepEd – BALS; Dr. Virginia E. Silvestre, ALS Chief of DepED – NCR; Dr. Flordeliza R. Mayari, the Schools Division Superintendent of Marikina City; Honorable Councilor Boggs S. Reyes of Marikina City; Rotary Club President Mr. Edu Magtaos; Brgy. Captain Enrico Chu of Kalumpang; and Ave Mejia, eSkwela Project Officer and CICT representative.