Only 20 pct of Bangsamoro has internet access, official says as DepEd gears for online classes

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 11 2020 07:40 PM | Updated as of Jun 11 2020 11:25 PM

Children enjoy playing by a river near the Grand Mosque in Cotabato City, January 24, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - Less than a quarter of residents in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) have access to the internet, the region's minister of education said Thursday, as the Department of Education (DepEd) prepared to shift to a blended learning system during the coronavirus crisis.

The DepEd's policy of delivering lessons through online, television, radio and printed materials would be a challenge as only 20 percent of BARMM can connect to the internet, said Mohagher Iqbal, Bangsamoro Minister of Basic, Higher and Technical Education.

"I want to clarify that the Bangsamoro has connectivity issues and not all areas have access to the internet," he told the Senate Committee on Basic Education.

"Sa mga island provinces, especially Tawi-Tawi, kahit cellphone mahirap mag-communicate lalo na internet," he said.

"Given this reality we cannot solely rely on internet for teaching and learning despite the availability of online classrooms," he said.

BARMM is planning to use radio and television programs and text messaging to deliver some lessons to students, Iqbal said.

Bangsamoro's education minister also urged the government to "fully implement" the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act to help give BARMM students an advantage during the coronavirus crisis.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) earlier said that it was already in talks with the DepEd and the Commission on Higher Education to provide free WiFi in schools as the country's learning system prepares to shift to a new normal due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Telecommunication companies are also in talks with education agencies and schools to help implement alternatives to in-person classes.

DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones said parents will be asked to pick up printed modules in schools in areas without internet access.

Other printed modules may be delivered to the students' homes, depending on the situation in a locality.

As of June 11, 228,549 students from the Bangsamoro have already enrolled in primary and secondary schools for school year 2020-2021.

The new school year is set to open on August 24.