By Russell Louis C. Ku 

THE DEPARTMENT of Education (DepEd) would need an additional P37 billion for laptops and internet service allowance to assist teachers as the country enters its second year of distance learning, officials said on Tuesday during a House budget hearing.   

DepEd Undersecretary Alain Del B. Pascua said despite the department’s higher proposed budget for 2022, funds are still insufficient to cover all teachers nationwide.   

“If we will be providing all teachers with the needed laptops considering the existence of laptops that we have now, we still need P33 billion to provide everybody with laptops and then we need another P4 billion for data connectivity… for 12 months of connectivity,” he said.  

DepEd is proposed to receive P629.8 billion next year, an increase of 6.01% from this year’s P594.11 billion.    

Of the total, P11.31 billion is allotted for the agency’s computerization program, which is a 99.83% increase from this year’s P5.66 billion.  

Mr. Pascua said 211,000 laptops purchased from the 2019 national budget were delivered in June this year while 36,676 units bought from the 2020 spending plan are set to be sent to teachers. Another 65,683 laptops are still being procured from this year’s budget and an additional 40,000 units were acquired from Bayanihan II funds.  

For data connectivity, he said the Department of Information and Communications Technology is the lead agency for this but DepEd has also allotted P700 million for satellite connectivity in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas.  

Meanwhile, DepEd Secretary Leonor M. Magtolis-Briones said during the hearing that 25.58 million students have enrolled for school year 2021-2022, which is 97.5% of the previous school year’s record of 26.22 million students.   

In another development, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said it is investigating the death of a grade 10 student in Negros Occidental allegedly due to hazing.   

In a statement on the commission’s website on Tuesday, CHR Spokesperson Jacqueline Ann C. de Guia said initial police reports suggest that the student died due to hazing. 

Ms. De Guia also called on schools and the security sector “to ensure proper and complete implementation of the Anti-Hazing Act of 2008 and to practice vigilance in monitoring the country’s schools and universities” even as face-to-face classes are still banned.   

CHR has yet to reply to a request for comment on their recommendations on how schools can monitor such activities under a remote learning set-up. — with Bianca Angelica D. Añago