GILUTONGAN Elementary School has enough classrooms, but its pupils and teachers would sometimes hold their classes outside, under the shade of a tree. They have computers, but the children rarely get their hands on them. The problem: lack of electricity.

The arrival of more than a dozen solar panels and its official turnover to school administrators yesterday could signal the start of a better learning environment for the children in Gilutongan, a small island off Cordova, Cebu.

For years, extreme heat has driven pupils and teachers out of the classrooms, and they have often ended up discussing lessons in the schoolyard. The classrooms have no electric fans, and even if they had, there was not enough electricity to operate them.

They had only six solar panels.

With the installation of 18 more solar panels, school principal Marites Padayao said they can now get electric fans for the classrooms and maximize the use of their computers.

SunEdison, an American company that manufactures solar technology, donated the solar panels, which can provide the school with up to 5,220 watts of electricity. It installed the panels with the help of N.A. Systems Inc., a local company.

Cristina Osmeña, daughter of Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, represented SunEdison during yesterday’s turnover ceremony. Cordova Mayor Adelino Sitoy, Vice Mayor Mary Therese Sitoy-Cho and barangay officials graced the event.


Cebu City Councilor Nestor Archival, president of the N.A. Systems Inc., and Councilor Roberto Cabarrubias also attended the ceremony.

SunEdison spent about P3 million for the project, which is the first of its kind in the Visayas, Archival said in an interview. His company was hired by SunEdison to design and install the solar panels and a control room.

Osmeña, whose husband is the vice president of SunEdison, identified the school as a beneficiary with the help of her uncle, former Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, who referred her to Mayor Sitoy.

Osmeña went to the island in August last year to check the school. She also read stories to the children at the time.

Sitoy welcomed the project, saying it will improve the quality of basic education children in the island get.

“This will mean a lot to the school. They can use Internet now. It is also timely because we are opening a high school here,” Sitoy said in an interview.

In yesterday’s turnover ceremony, hundreds of children gathered in a covered court and waved small flags to welcome the donor and officials.

Some also danced to entertain the guests.

Limited power

Like all the households in the island, the school gets electricity only at night, from a generator operated by the barangay. The generator supplies power for only four hours at night.

Pumpboats are the common means of transportation to Gilutongan, a small island with about 200 households. The island, with its rich coral reefs, is one of the favorite destinations of island-hoppers in Mactan.

Because of the lack of electricity, not all pupils of Gilutongan Elementary School are able to use computers. The school has 11 computers, seven of which were provided by the Department of Education, while four were donated by other government agencies and private groups.

The school, which has more than 400 pupils, had six solar panels but these cannot provide enough electricity. The panels were donated by Plan International, a humanitarian organization, to a public school in Balamban, Cebu where principal Padayao used to serve.

The panels were brought to Gilutongan after the school in Balamban was fully energized.

Padayao said that all pupils starting Grade 4 may now be able to use the computers.

“We will now be able to use our computers for eight hours. This project will really help in improving our education,” she said.