Rain or Shine, the SOA Must Go on: Schools-on-the-Air for Apayao and Kalinga Remain on Air Amidst COVID-19

LA TRINIDAD, BENGUET. Despite COVID-19 health risks, delivery of government services, particularly in agricultural extension, has to continue albeit some modifications to cope and adapt with the present pandemic. The Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), for its part, conceptualized the modified school-on-the-air (SOA) as one of its adaptation measures in response to COVID-19. The SOA is an extension strategy where information on a particular subject, or an advocacy is disseminated through radio broadcasts.

In the case of ATI, a SOA deals with a specific set of topics for a particular period following a module or a broadcast guide. It begins with the enrollment of target participants, administration of pre-test among enrollees, followed by a launching program where representatives from the enrollees and other stakeholders gather to jumpstart the SOA. Broadcast then starts and quizzes are given on air every after a lesson or as indicated in the broadcast guide, and finally a written exam is administered. Enrollees who passed the quizzes and the exam are then qualified to graduate from the SOA. Finally, a graduation program, usually a large crowd gathering, concludes the SOA. The ATI SOA targets at least 500 graduates for every SOA implemented.

In the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), the ATI-CAR has been running the SOA since 2013. Usually, one SOA is implemented covering one province for each year and is then moved to another province in the succeeding year to bring the SOA to all the CAR provinces. However, with the threat of COVID-19 infection and the subsequent restrictions on large crowd gatherings, the ATI-CAR adopted strategies to implement a modified SOA. The ATI’s modified SOA, while is still similar to the regular SOA in terms of implementation, has a decreased target number of graduates from 500 to 300. The decrease in the target number of graduates was made due to the restrictions on the movement of people and other COVID-19 related prohibitions.

Moreover, the modified SOA skipped large crowd gathering activities such as the launching and graduation programs. The role of SOA coordinators from the partner local government units (LGU) in the recruitment, enrollment, administration of quizzes and exams, and monitoring of enrollees in their respective municipalities was also enhanced in the modified SOA. Agricultural extension workers and other experts from partner LGU and state colleges and universities were also tapped as resource persons for the SOA. Partner radio stations and SOA coordinators were also encouraged to share, through social media, the videos and photos of the broadcasts and of their other SOA related activities.

This year’s ATI-CAR SOA cover the provinces of Apayao and Kalinga. In Apayao, the SOA promotes the Palay Check System for hybrid rice production. Rice farmers from the municipalities of Flora, Luna, Pudto, and Sta. Marcela are the target listeners of this SOA. Hosting the SOA is the BZNQ – FM 96.7 Radyo Kasaranay of the Apayao State College (ASC) – Luna Campus in Luna, Apayao. The ATI-CAR is implementing said SOA in partnership with the ASC, through its Research, Development and Extension Office, and the municipal LGU of Flora, Luna, Pudto, and Sta. Marcela through their respective municipal agriculture offices. The SOA in Apayao started airing on August 29, 2020 and will broadcast until October 31, 2020 every Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday from 6:00 AM to 7:00 AM. The broadcasts can also be viewed on Facebook via @96.7 FM Radyo Kasaranay, and @Ati Cordillera.

Meanwhile, in the neighboring province of Kalinga, another SOA is hitting the airwaves covering Tabuk City and the municipality of Rizal. This SOA is one of the extension interventions under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) of R.A. No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law. Said SOA promotes the Palay Check System for inbred rice production. The ATI-CAR partnered with the DZRK 837 AM Radyo Pilipinas Tabuk, and the LGU of Rizal and Tabuk City, through their respective municipal and city agriculture offices, in running the SOA. The broadcast started on August 3, 2020 and will air until October 31, 2020 every Monday from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM. (ACPVelasco)