GSC’S SHEEP-CLP: APPRENTICESHIP FOR GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS AND SOCIAL EQUITY

Posted: September 29, 2008 in Uncategorized
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While, strictly put, it is just  program, the General Santos City’s SHEEP-CLP (SHEEP is an acronym for the city’s major development thrusts which we will later spell out, while CLP stands for Computer Literacy Program) operates as a virtual division under the City Mayor’s Office (CMO).

Operating under the auspices of City Mayor Pedro B. Acharon, Jr., this program is considered a virtual division under the CMO due to the existence of its own organizational structure, with clearly defined functions and hierarchical responsibilities. Correspondingly, it has a staffing pattern – with required qualification standards (QS) for each and every position found therein – which is now occupied by chosen technical persons and information technology (IT) experts.

Currently, SHEEP-CLP, while lacking in usual sensationalism innate to many local service departments, remains to be a largely obscure office but its role in the pursuit of the city’s development strategies (CDS) and for the charting of its destiny, if subjected to deeper examination, cannot be discounted. Such a role, as we shall delve later, is actually of monumental significance to the future of the city and its people.

SHEEP-CLP had only a total of five staff members, with Percival Pasuelo, Norda Celebrado and Gertrudes Bartolaba at the helm, when it was created in 1999.

Notably, a year before that, former Mayor and Congressman Adelbert W. Antonino dramatically recaptured the highest local political seat when he finally defeated his then strongest political archrival after a highly sensational power see-saw that had characterized the city’s political landscape for almost two decades.

Therefore, when SHEEP-CLP was finally birthed in 1999, Adel Antonino was actually serving his second term as a City Mayor.

As always, institutions created for a purely public purpose have their own elemental subjectivity. Consequently, this is also true with SHEEP-CLP. Adel Antonino, regarded as a computer wizard long before computerization was first introduced in the city in the early ‘90s, had IT then as one of his major fields of interests. That Adel Antonino’s near-obsession on IT at that time had helped propel the establishment of SHEEP-CLP in the city is a contention that we do not consider as one that betrays logic.

Today, with Mayor Jun Acharon serving his third and last term as City Mayor, SHEEP-CLP is now composed of 25 staff members, working under the direction of Amelia Barroga, the new program supervisor. In addition, the program has already a manifold of office infrastructures put under its control. Together with the growth and development of its physical and human resource infrastructures, SHEEP-CLP has vastly expanded its mandated functions and its role in the pursuit of the city’s development agenda.

Also, in 1999, SHEEP-CLP started as an office that merely worked to help develop and sharpen the IT skills of different offices within the city’s bureaucracy; including the IT skills of its development partners which are basically government mandated or recognized institutions and civil society organizations. Later on, however, SHEEP-CLP expanded its mandate, this time, to serve the interest and welfare of the bigger society by conducting regular computer classes among students and pupils in public secondary and elementary schools (the social significance of this is discussed in the theoretical portion of this work).

Aside from conducting computer trainings for the present crop of city government functionaries, SHEEP-CLP is also involved in initiating Computer Literacy Tests (CLT) for job aspirants. The CLT is given before a work applicant for any position in the city undergoes so-called Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and Emotional Quotient (EQ) examinations. These examinations are usually conducted by the Human Resource and Management Development Office (HRMDO), under Mrs. Sarah T. Sanchez.

In the pursuit of its bigger role, SHEEP-CLP is, at first, commissioned to transfer technologies in computer operations to students/pupils of public secondary and elementary schools (The reason for this we will elucidate later on) by training public school teachers who would, in turn, hone the computer skills of their students or pupils. But it was later found out that this scheme is not wholly effective. The local branch of the Department of Education Culture and Sports (DECS) has simply no enough personnel to satisfy the human resource requirement of the program.

To remedy the situation, the SHEEP-CLP personnel took the cudgel in conducting basic computer literacy training sessions in all public secondary and elementary schools within the city; the work that they continue to do until today. This is also the reason for the increase in the number of personnel under SHEEP-CLP from five in 1999 and twenty five at present. As an added premium for local government offices and its school beneficiaries, SHEEP-CLP also extends computer repair and maintenance services involving local government-owned computers, when time warrants.

Since its inception in 1999, the number of beneficiaries of SHEEP-CLP has reached roughly around 11,000 students and pupils. Basic computer literacy trainings still continue, with the program becoming a permanent component of the City Annual Budget (CAB). Its permanent presence in the CAB is a clear testament to its perpetuity as a program, but, operating as a virtual office.

At present, all public secondary and elementary schools in the city are benefited with the services of the program, although, the same services are still to extend to newly established schools’ annexes (extension areas). However, Mrs. Barroga revealed that Mayor Jun Acharon pledged to put these schools’ annexes within the service ambit of SHEEP-CLP, either late this year (2008) or early next year (2009).

The basic computer literacy trainings that SHEEP-CLP extends to students and pupils include, inter alia, Microsoft Windows, Word Excel, Page Maker, Front Page and Power Point, among others. Of course, the computer lessons that SHEEP-CLP gives vary according to the respective needs of its beneficiaries.

To heighten the effectiveness of the process of information technology transfer, SHEEP-CLP prepared and reproduced training modules, hand-outs and training designs which the students/pupils could use for their future engagements vis-à-vis the sharpening of their IT skills. Updated from time to time, these learning instruments are regularly distributed to the beneficiaries of the program.

It is worth noting that the services that SHEEP-CLP renders to its beneficiaries are beyond abstractions. It also extends infrastructure support to schools which are hosting basic computer literacy trainings by providing computer teachers, buildings, if necessary; computer sets, and supplies, if funds allow it. It also allocates P1, 500.00 per host school to defray the cost of electricity incurred for the use of the computers during the trainings.

From school year 2000 to 2007, SHEEP-CLP has provided a total of 794 computers to 48 public secondary and elementary schools, costing around P22, 000,000.00, in all. The mentioned amount represents costs for the purchase of computer sets with tables, printers, scanners, networking accessories, uninterrupted power supply units, automotic voltage regulators and other peripherals.

Of the 48 schools provided with computer sets, 30 schools were given 20 computer units each; 8 schools,  15 computer units each; 5 schools, 10 computer units each; 3 schools, 3 computer units each; while another school received 3 computer units. A trade school in Barangay Lagao was also given a computer unit.

The funds used for the acquisition of these computer units were all provided through local appropriations. However, the construction of various buildings where these computers units are housed was made possible through the Countrywide Development Fund (CDF) of Congresswoman Darlene R. Antonino-Custodio.

In the first blush, the services that are being rendered by SHEEP-CLP may appear simplistic, merely at par with other social services normally extended by local governments to their respective constituencies. However, if sharply viewed through the lens of the prevailing global order and the city development strategies/thrusts, SHEEP-CLP services actually carry in them deep-seated social meanings, much deeper that we usually imagine.

To contextualize, the city’s IT program, under SHEEP-CLP, is a built-in component of the Acharon administration’s development thrusts, condensed within the acronym “SHEEP”. These development thrusts were first formulated and adopted during the second term (1998-2001) of Adel Antonino as City Mayor, but were lately revised to tailor-fit to the prevailing social conditions, although the acronym “SHEEP” was purposively retained to preserve its roots and its narratives in public memory.

Formerly, SHEEP stood for Shelter, Health, Education, Environment and Peace and Order but now SHEEP stands for Social Transformation, Human Empowerment, Economic Diversification, Environment Security and Regeneration and Participatory Governance and Transparency. As we may notice, the city’s thrusts have had transmogrified from specifically confined impulsions 1998 into a vastly expanded areas of development concern at present.

Thus, SHEEP, as a development thrust, like any other development experiment, is also involved in narrative building, indicative of its dynamism as a social experiment.

Considering that local development offensives, under the era of globalization, are largely knowledge-based, SHEEP-CLP operates, in effect, as an indispensable component of the above-mentioned development thrusts, which are reeling along the city’s development strategies (CDS): good governance, competitiveness, bankability and livability.

These development strategies, as we all know, serve as ascending parallel lanes towards the city’s vision, which is to build an economically prosperous and globally competitive city inhabited by empowered and healthy people who actively participate in local governance.

While it plays an important role in each of the city’s development strategies, SHEEP-CLP’S main functions is to help make the city globally competitive by preparing its productive forces – present and future – in the field of information technology, now considered to be one of the major arenas for global engagement.

During the present era of globalization, expertise in information technology is a potent weapon for massive accumulation of knowledge and an indispensable measure for human excellence. Thus, those who fail to sharpen their expertise in the field of information technology are sidelined and cannot catch up with the speeding train of modernity. As it is, there is no way that the city could compete globally without expanding its people’s knowledge arsenal, especially the one involving information technology.

Let us deepen our analysis of this development thesis. Globalization – defined as a process of transforming the world into a global village – is facilitated by modern transportation and sophisticated communication and information technology. While it hastens closer interactions between and among different nations and cultures, globalization has soaked these same nations and cultures in stern, at times barbaric, competition against each other. As experience indicates, those that failed or refused to relate with information technologies are defeated, exploited and pitifully sidelined in ignominy.

While globalization is desirable per se; it has some vile aspects that, if not effectively confronted, could plunge the city into eventual economic perdition.  These vile aspects of globalization are further reinforced by its neo-liberal strategy that calls, among others, for the, 1.) withering of nation-states and put them under the stranglehold of global capital; 2.) establishment of borderless economy; 3.) trampling afoot of the people’s sense of nation and national identity; and, 4.) devastation of local communities to make them more vulnerable to foreign control. These are the reasons why this type of globalization is also called a corporate-led globalization.

Worse, neo-liberal globalization further bolsters the dominance of strong and affluent nations (e.g. the G8) over fragile and poor nations, like the Philippines. With this type of globalization, exploitation is done not only on the basis of sectors and class but also on the basis of nations and cultures.

It is, therefore, very clear that, when it adopted global competitiveness as one of the major elements of its development strategy, the city government, although its local officials are not so conversant on this, did not only have the formulation of relevant economic programs in mind but also the fortification of the city from the tsunami-like onslaughts of the “evils” of globalization.

Although the forces of global capital have lately suffered from lingering sickness, neo-liberal globalization as a global system remains strong and lurks at peace beneath the rumblings of the social chaos it caused, confident of the fortifying power of global superstructures responsible for its growth and development.

Local governments, like our own, are forced by circumstances to play according to the set of rules enforced by the prevailing global system, lest, they would be finding themselves piercing the last nail on their respective coffins. But the city government, with the establishment of SHEEP-CLP, is preparing itself for global engagement not only to survive but to prosper – to dominate if possible.

Neo-liberal globalization will endure not because it offers a perfectly working global economic system – in fact it is frequently visited by so many, sometimes deadly flaws – but because an alternative to this global system is not likely to be invented within succeeding generations and, if by twist of fate, such an alternative system would be invented, there is certainly a serious want of forces necessary to effect the transmogrification of the current global system into a new, just and more humane order.

The impossibility of creating a new global order was articulated by Francis Fukuyama, author of the book End of History and the Last Man (which Senate Star Witness Jun Lozada claimed to be his favorite book). In his book, he claimed that, with the advent of corporate globalization, history has practically ended. He contended that this corporate-led globalization is the ultimate destiny of humanity; meaning that the world has already reached the end-point of its journey to where it should be and to what it shall become.

Having considered the prevailing global order as the best economic system that humanity has ever established, Fukuyama also contended that corporate globalization is no longer irreversible; it will never unravel. There is no more global order that humanity can invent that is more glorifying than this one. Therefore, all nations and cultures should learn to operate under its sets of rules and adjust to its given standards, if they are to benefit from this new global order.

So, when SHEEP-CLP was finally birthed in the late ‘90s, what preoccupied the minds of local officials then was how to prepare the city and its productive forces for effective global engagements, not only to merely survive but to also prevail and dominate, in the end. This is one of the main reasons for the creation of SHEEP-CLP. This is also how SHEEP-CLP should be viewed as a social program.

However, the social functionality of SHEEP-CLP does not end there. Globalization does not only result to strong competition between and among nations and national cultures; it also gives rise to domestic competitions, with local government units fighting for global and national attention in a bid to rev up their respective local economies. Local governments, optimizing the use of their new-found autonomous powers, have been preoccupied in the job of outsmarting each other in order to serve the best interest and welfare of their respective constituencies.

Consequently, local government units that fail to engage in the arena of information technology are likewise relegated to the economic dustbin, unable to participate in the race for local economic development.

Thus, as a program, SHEEP-CLP is meant to prepare the city’s productive forces to effectively confront these new economic and political dynamics involving local government units within the country. Clearly, therefore, the role that SHEEP-CLP plays does not end with its intervention in the preparation of local forces for active engagement not only with international forces but with domestic forces as well. Sharpening the city’s competitive edge with other LGUs is also one of the important reasons for the establishment of SHEEP-CLP.

Moreover, and more importantly, SHEEP-CLP helps prepare the city’s subjective forces for both global and domestic engagements by providing both the rich and the poor equal access to information technology. It means that this program gives the poor, who are incapable of gaining academic initiations in expensive private schools, equal access to information technology which they can hardly have without the SHEEP-CLP. This is pursued in consonance with the belief that an unjust society cannot effectively engage with other societies because its social fibers are too weak to endure the beatings of external forces.

It should be noted that private schools are already giving the children of affluent families access to information technology even beginning from kinder garten, while the children of poor families in public schools do not have such kind of luxury. As a result, public school children are terribly left out, thus, putting them on disadvantageous position in the endless race for life. To cure this social infirmity, SHEEP-CLP was established to cater to students and pupils in public schools who belong to the lower socio-economic strata of society.

It is, therefore, unequivocal that the establishment of SHEEP-CLP was for the purpose of ensuring sociological balance between the rich and the poor and of leveling off the playing field for all the people, which is basically the main philosophy for the existence of the state. While it is meant to make the city globally and domestically competitive, it is, foremost, intended to ensure social equity in the city by erasing the social fault-line that separates the poor from the rich, at least, in terms of access to information technology.

In sum, therefore, SHEEP-CLP has a two-pronged mission: One, to make the city globally and domestically competitive; and, Two, to give the poor people equal access to IT education so that they will not be sidelined in the processes of development.

Yes, SHEEP-CLP remains to be an obscure office but it continues to silently play its significant role in the growth of the city and in ensuring fair and just economic and political environment for all the people in this part of the country.

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