MANILA -- Education is a right, not a privilege.
It is stated in Article 14, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution that “the State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels, and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all.”
Unfortunately, millions of students are grappling to hold on to that right after the the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) barred them from their classrooms.
While online classes are an ideal alternative, the reality is that many Filipinos can barely put food on the table, let alone subscribe to an internet provider.
With no clear date when schools will physically resume, a group of working Law students started a donation drive to respond to the plight of students whose future was threatened by the onslaught of the novel coronavirus.
“We are looking to sponsor students in dire need of internet access to be able to continue their education in light of the recent shift to online learning in the Philippines,” Peachy Garcia, one of the founders of Project Wifi, explained.
According to Garcia, she, along with her schoolmates K Santos, David Magbanua, Rafa Reyes, Lawrence Paras, Darz Delim, Pat Roma-Carreon, and Jasper Young, wanted to “pay forward the access to education they had to more Filipino students.”
“Watching the news and seeing how much our struggling fellow students are also challenged by the shift to online learning, we have decided that we want to help and 'adopt' a student in need by providing 1 semester of wifi access, to tide them through the financial setbacks brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
“We hope we can minimize those who will not enroll this semester because they do not have the financial capacity to sustain internet access,” Garcia added.
According to the Law students, it was their own struggle during the sudden shift to digital learning that drove them to put up Project Wifi.
“We know first-hand the difficulty. Some of us are also recipients of financial aid from the university,” Garcia recalled.
She continued: “Even if we are studying in a private university in Metro Manila, not all of us and our classmates can fully participate in an online class because of lack of access to the internet. Online classes are almost impossible for some of us because we only rely on mobile data which we have to reload every so often. It was costly to say the least.”
In the beginning, the goal of the schoolmates was just to pool enough money out of their pockets to provide one or two students with WiFi devices.
However, after receiving “overwhelming support” from friends and relatives, Garcia said they decided to escalate the effort.
“We decided to raise funds through donations as well so that hopefully, we can adopt 50 students (or more, depending on raised funds)... We will release the names of beneficiaries of the first batch on 15 June,” she said.
She continued: “But if we are able to raise funds sufficient to sustain beyond our initial goal, then we are willing to facilitate the initiative to run beyond what is needed.”
Preschool, grade school, high school and college students across the country without internet access are encouraged to submit their applications on or before June 10, 2020.
“We want to reach as many students as possible… We hope this can make a difference in the lives of many Filipinos,” Garcia said.
For the inaugural batch, Project Wifi plans to sustain at least 50 students for the coming first semester of Academic Year 2020-2021.
”It is the 'adjustment semester' for all students having just come from almost 3 months of quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many parents have lost their sources of income during such a crisis so this is initially a project to tide them through the adjustment to a new normal,” Garcia explained.
Project WiFi said they will prioritize the students whose semester had already begun or is about to start this June.
Since the Law students want to maximize their resources, they “take into consideration how many students are in a single household.”
“For example, one applicant wrote in and said that in their house, there are 4 students who will benefit with a single device,” Garcia explained.
Another consideration the endeavor contemplates on is if the student is the breadwinner for his or her family.
“The group has individually allocated their time in logistics and in communicating to those who have messaged us and shared their life stories,” Garcia shared.
To “weed out bogus applicants” the group created an online form so they may thoroughly vet the profiles.
“We ask applicants or nominators to upload proof of enrollment and whether their school has shifted to full online learning or hybrid type of learning for the coming semester,” Garcia said.
The aspiring lawyer noted some school employees and heads of school organizations are also collaborating with them.
“They partnered with us to be able to provide to their students in need. The school administrator will also be the one to pre-screen these students for the grant,” she explained.
SUPPORTING THE INITIATIVE
According to Garcia, one full semester would cost around P3,999 per student.
“The breakdown is P999 for the WiFi device; P3,000 for prepaid load good for one semester or P600/month. Delivery cost would also vary depending on the location of the student,” she elaborated.
While Project WiFi had already received monetary donations, sales pledges from several SMEs, and pre-loved WiFi devices, they are imploring the public to continue aiding their advocacy.
“We are hopeful more kind-hearted Filipinos will support our cause to make sure that COVID-19 will now take away a child’s chance to be educated because of financial setbacks brought by a force majeure situation such as this pandemic,” Garcia appealed.
“People can help by nominating beneficiaries of Iinternet access and by donating... You can sponsor a full semester, a WiFi device, prepaid load, give any amount or give your used pocket WiFi devices,” she added.
The team also urged the public to show their support by sharing their page, so more potential donors could be reached.
“Together, let us make sure the next generation has access to education in the new normal,” the group said collectively.
While their present goal is to provide internet access, in the future Garcia said they seek to expand their campaign for equal educational opportunities.
“The long-term vision for Project WiFi is to make technology accessible for Filipino students and to improve on the quality of education in the country through technology,” Garcia enthused.
“We hope to provide laptops or iPads, and create an online platform to make local university education or even foreign education certificates or degrees accessible to Filipinos who could only ever dream of getting a college degree, much less a foreign education,” she added.
For those interested in signing up or nominating a student visit here.
To donate, visit their Facebook or Instagram page for more information.