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6.5 Training in Essential Skills

An Adult Education Division has existed within the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Department since the 1980’s, Lately the division was re-named as being responsible for ‘Non-Formal Education’.

For quite a while there was only one officer assigned to the Non-Formal Education Division in the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development. The duties of the officer were limited, consequently services offered did not have impact.

It is during this decade (1990s) that the Solomon Islands government has realised the importance and need to strengthen and expand the Non-Formal Education Division of the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development.

For the last two decades the number of primary schools drop-outs has risen significantly and now secondary school drop-outs (form 3 and 5) have added to the drop-out populace. Urban drift has become a concern and social problems have risen drastically. Rising unemployment in urban areas and rural communities has led to new social issues and problems.

This has prompted the government to reconsider its goals and objectives in the area of Non-Formal Education.

In the Solomon Islands Non-Formal Education (NFE) or Community Education is no longer viewed as simply extra-curricular in nature or just an add-on to the traditional formal education system.

The government, churches as well as non-government sectors realise that for the nation’s basic health, there is a need to have education system which caters for the needs of those living in a market economy as well as for those who are sustained by the subsistence one.

This line of thought has gained popularity across the island nations. The formal education system primary, secondary and tertiary training institutions are viewed with the idea that at the end of the education day some kind of a job awaits the school graduate.

The Non-formal Education Division (Community Education) of the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development has up until now been responsible for the affairs of Vocational Rural Training Centres (RTCs), Community Based Training Centres (CBTCs) and village based Education Programmes.

The division is basically responsible for administering, co-ordinating, facilitating and strengthening non-formal education and providing training opportunities for individuals. The people targeted here are particularly the out of school population and people in rural communities. Non-formal Education (NFE) or Community Education Offices, Rural Training Centres (RTCs), churches, Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) and other Non-Formal Education (NFE) agencies like the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education (SICHE) Distance Education Programme all work towards providing opportunities in this sector.

The Community Education Division also co-ordinates literacy programmes in the Solomon Islands in collaboration with its partners in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji and local involved agencies.

There are currently thirty (30) rural training centres (RTCs) in the Solomon Islands. Of these twenty-four (24) are affiliated with churches while the remaining six (6) are community based.

The larger well-established centres provide training in a rural vocational skills while smaller centres, particularly community based ones, offer a more limited range and often to a lower level of competency.

These offer course subjects for boys and girls in agriculture, business studies, accounting, wood work, building and carpentry, mechanics, sewing, typing, plumbing, health and nutrition, home economics, religious education and leadership training. Maths and English are also included.

Long -term residential courses may run for one to three years, and short -term block courses may run for one, two or three months.

Currently the total enrolment is approximately 2,460 trainees, a steady increase of 1,460 from 1,000 trainees in 1994. These trainees are in the age range 16-25. Most have been early leavers or have completed only primary schooling. However, there is an inflow of forms 1-5 leavers getting into some of these rural training centres, though numbers are currently minimal. Others may have not gone through the formal system at all. A few centres also provide training for adults from time to time.

Facilities and equipment in many centres still however inadequate. This is because most centres operate on very low budgets. Their income largely is derived from fees, and sales of produce and possibly small grants from church authorities or local communities.

The Rural Training Centres (RTC’s) have formed an association which is responsible for co-ordinating and administering programme activities. It is also responsible for aid grants which are received apart from grant allocation given to Rural Training Centres from the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development. For instance in April 1993 substantial aid assistance was received from the European Development Fund (EDF). The funded project’s aim was to strengthen the RTC’s through the training of instructors, the development of curriculum, provision of equipment, upgrading of facilities and monitoring loan funds for trainees during training and for establishing of enterprises for individuals on completion of their courses. The total funds available over a three year period were ECU 1.75 million (SI$6.5 million).

The project was implemented through the Solomon Islands Association of Rural Training Centres (SIARTC), an NGO established in 1993 to co-ordinate the activities of RCS. In 1994 the government also significantly increased funds allocated to RTCs.

Currently there are 256 instructors serving in RTCs of which few have received training instructional methods. Many therefore would benefit from upgrading of their vocational skills.

The other government ministry which is also responsible for providing basic education and useful skills to youth and adults is the Ministry of Youth, Women, Sports and Recreation.

This ministry was established in the 1970’s as a government sector to address social and youth issues/problems which tended to be on the increase. The main vision for present government is to address issues related to school dropouts, urban drift, unemployment and improve quality of life in rural areas. Two major activities established during 1970’s and 1980’s were the Masta-Liu project and the Aruligo National Youth Training Centre. The formation and establishment of the National Youth Congress during late 1980’s and early 1990’s was a significant achievement and has influenced the progress made in this area.

The National Youth Congress is a semi-government body which directly deals with youth issues and is responsible to the government of the day in terms of advice.

It is clear therefore that two government ministries are responsible for providing basic education and skills which are essential for making life comfortable and successful and they are the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development and the Ministry of Youth, Women, Sports and Recreation. They facilitate these training programmes either directly or through statutory bodies.

The Solomon Islands College of Higher Education (SICHE) conducts many life skills training courses for long and short-term duration.

A notable organisation, which also conducts a lot of community education, is the Solomon Island Development Trust (SIDT). It is a Non-Government Organisation, which largely receives funding from overseas to support its activities. The organisation has effective its links throughout the country through radio and it also has a mobile team.

The Solomon Islands Development Trust (SIDT) mobile team-touring programme 1993 summarises the organisation's activities for the year. The programme is shown below in Table 12.

Table 12 to Show Activities during 1993

Provincial Centres Population Awareness and Rural Resource Management Special Workshops Participants
Temotu 55 8 3685
Kiu (Choiseul) 25 5 1145
Honiara Centre 72 10 4341
Central 21 6 820
Sel 23 7 12437
Makira 36 15 2332
Harumou 30 15 2304
Pine 29 6 1020
South Guadalcanal 20 12 965
Isabel 28 8 1831
North Guadalcanal 22 4 1138

Source: SIDT 1993

During programme tours mobile team members conduct educational programmes based on basic education and life skill training. However, during special workshops other topics like logging and resource reviews, kitchens, gardens, communal activities, literacy, raising quality of village life, leadership courses, reforestation and political awareness programmes are featured.

The Solomon Islands Development Trust (SIDT) was established sixteen years ago and has been effective and active in community education and life skills training throughout Solomon Islands Communities.

Increased acquisition by individuals and families of the knowledge, skills and values required for better living, made available through all education channels has been progressing since its conception. Formal and informal institutions have in one way or the other influence the increased acquisition by individuals and families of the knowledge, skills and values required for the better living.

It is also important to note the assistance given by international organisations which enabled many local organisations to function effectively. Such include the World Bank, World Health Organisation (WHO), UNDP, UNICEF, UNESCO, AUSAID, DFID, UKODA, ADB and several others. Assistance rendered in form of finance, technical assistance and other kinds has greatly contributed to achievements gained in the area of basic education and like skill training.

6.6 Education for Better Living

During the last decade the Solomon islands have done much to raise the quality of life in the country.

For example, UNESCO Apia’s two year youth programme which began with the training of a core group of four young people from each of thirteen Pacific Island countries resulted in a National Youth Forum and other activities which have contributed to education for better living for youth.

Airports were developed in most provinces and Solomon Airlines have done well in managing its present fleet. The Solomon Islands National Shipping Service has operated for several years now with private companies running shipping services as well. Geographically, the islands are scattered and cover a large area of sea and improvements in air and shipping services have made travel much easier, quicker and more comfortable than before. Through the international Hendersen Airport serving Honiara, and Naro and Yandina as international sea ports goods are sent out and brought into the country more efficiently than before.

The government and different church groups have also established hospitals and rural health clinics throughout the country. The Central referral Hospital located in the capital, Honiara with Kilufi, Kirakira, Atoifi, Lata, Gizo and Helena Goldie Hospital in the provinces. These hospitals have greatly improved the quality and provisions of maternal care throughout the country, contributing to the health and well being of both mothers and young children.

The rural water supply and sanitation programme has done extremely well during this decade. Many villages throughout the country have now received their water supplies and other sanitation facilities. In the past many villagers had to walk a long way to fetch water.

Infrastructure development with the construction of roads and bridges has enabled farmers and other business groups to make their activities easier and areas more accessible. Rural dwellers for example are now able to sell their farm produce in urban centres therefore improving their income. This has meant that they are able to purchase other items such as clothing, sewing machines, radios, eating utensils as well as others. Those who do well may buy motor vehicles and out-board motor canoes.

Other notable national health programmes which have improved the quality of life in Solomon Islands include the Malaria Eradication Programme as well as the public health programmes against tuberculosis, yaws and tetanus. The most recently introduced programmes are campaigns against HIV (Aids) and venereal diseases.

The media too is utilised to help people improve the quality of their lives. National campaign programmes are transmitted on Solomon Islands Broadcasting

Co-operation (SIBC) and on FM 100.

The Solomons Star newspaper which is published 5 times a week and two other newspapers also carry public awareness educational programmes.

Telephone systems in Solomon Islands have lately been improved and now people find it easier to communicate with each other from various provinces.

The World Heritage site (Lake Tingoa) in Rennell and Bellona province is registered on the World Heritage list. This not only supports the target of maintaining cultural heritage but also supports the Preservation of the Environment Campaign in Solomon Islands.

It is commendable to note that non-government organisations such as Solomon Islands Development Trust (SIDT) Peace Corps, other Voluntary agencies, the churches, business houses and many private organisations have contributed significantly towards raising the quality of life within Solomon Islands.

7.0 Effectiveness of the EFA Strategy, Plan and Programmes.

Once more it must be clarified that developmental issues relating to Education For All (EFA) were not addressed in isolation from the rest of the education system. To this effect the following conclusions are made to highlight the effectiveness of the strategy and plans of action which EFA issues adopted.

The issue of Early Childhood Education was newly introduced and implemented in isolation. Although literate Solomon Islanders would support the Programme, many people in local communities appeared not to mind that their children did not attend kindergartens (kindies). The Programme does not however win popular support generally and Government currently offers financial support to preparatory classes only.

The question of primary school expansion to warrant universal access to primary education, is ongoing and consolidated. This has been very effective during this decade. The fact that many children do not attend primary school or leave prematurely may be due to other reasons rather than not having enough places in school. This area needs researching. Vocational or community education is the most popular educational programme. This is may be because many families see immediate positive outcomes to the kind of training involved. They see immediate benefits.

Other Education For All (EFA) components supported by other partners in education development, international agencies or donor countries are more successful than those left entirely to local government. The Adult Literacy Programme in Solomon Islands was effective to some extent but when outside support ceased the programme collapsed. This is the same for other programmes. The education for all issues would have been more successful if they were not addressed in isolation at the beginning of this decade.

8.0 Main problems encountered and anticipated

There were three different governments which came to power during the period 1990 to 1999. The Mamaloni government was voted in 1989 and then in 1993 there was a change of government when the Hilly government came into office. Later on during their term of office the Mamaloni government came to power until general elections in 1997. The Ulufa’alu government came to power after 1997 general elections and is continuing to the time of writing.

The support for educational programs such as Education for All (EFA) was inconsistent because of political instability. There were four different governments ruling Solomon Islands during the decade 1989 – 1999 and these had different manifestos, programs of actions, strategy approaches and policies. The above trend is not conducive to achieve positive progress in educational development as well as other development.

During the decade many experienced officers have retired due to old age and this has affected performance output in main government ministries and throughout the provinces. This also adds to the fact that many different Ministers of Education have headed the Ministry of Education over the decade.

The Solomon Islands have downsized its Public Service since 1995 and is still continuing to do so at the present time. Many officers in support ministries have left, thus affecting efficiency in terms of work output. Again, officers have been made redundant in compliance with restructuring policies, causing remaining officers to be overloaded with work. Often the officers have not been able to cope with the extra workload which was once performed by their colleagues who were made redundant.

Solomon Islands is a country of many islands, stretching over a large area of ocean. Villages are small and isolated and more often children walk long distances to school. Some villages are in the mountains and children there are likely to miss classes.

Ships can take two to three days to reach some schools so school supplies are delayed. Not all schools have radios or telephone links so communication is quite a problem.

Up until recently the numbers of untrained teachers deployed under the National Teaching Service is significant. This has raised issues of quality in teaching achievement. Efforts were made to upgrade untrained teachers but with unforeseen expansion of secondary schools the problem now shifts to secondary school teaching.

Primary schools in the Solomon Islands have experienced acute shortages of materials during this decade. School supplies were better in the past when orders were centralised. Now this is done through provinces and the problem of shortage has arisen.

Budget cuts and slow government cash flow is normal experience over recent years. This has contributed to unfinished projects in education and many shortfalls in the system. The Government of the day too has to draw its policies in favour of international financial agencies to attract financial support. The last governments have not done well in this area.

Inadequate data gathering, storing of data and management has been experienced over the years. This has caused problems to education planners and policy makers. However, the situation has improved since the Education Management Information System (EMIS) has been established under the Basic Education Life Skill (BELS) program

9.0 Public awareness, Political Will and National Capacities.

Coupled with high illiteracy rate, poor communication, facilities, geographical remoteness, public awareness programs do not have much impact on the general populace.

The Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) may assist with such programs but not everyone has radios.

The various churches may assist in public awareness with education programmes but this may mean training resource personnel and incurring expenditure. Church groups are best targets for public awareness education programs because attendance at church services and gatherings are positive and effective. However, it is amazing that these groups are not fully utilised.

In the Solomon Islands political history, no one political party ever gets the majority number of votes required to form a stand-alone government so there is always a Coalition government formed after each general election. Coalition governments do not have policies to follow so they have to establish comprised policy statements and programmes of actions. More often such governments do not pursue their plans vigorously.

However, public awareness activities are conducted in urban settings, especially during political campaigns where government policies can be criticised or supported. Awareness programmes may be in the form of a Public Forum at a public place or on radio. The Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) Talk Back Show is an excellent way of sharing public awareness programmes.

The Solomon Islands should be wealthier because it has natural resources. With the conversion of its natural wealth it should address its problems and attend to its educational plans positively. However, this is not the case. Many programmes have been abandoned because of lack of funds and other resources. The educational problems must not be viewed in isolation. Economic and political policies must be conducive in order to ensure positive development in all sectors.

10. General Assessment of the Progress.

Solomon Islands began its early childhood education (ECE) during the late1980s and into the 1990s. Preparatory classes have been added to existing primary schools in most cases.

An Early Childhood Education policy guidelines and curricula is in place as of 1993. New kindergartens and playgroups are currently established by private groups.

A few new primary schools have opened during this decade but the opening of new schools is almost static.

The government has drawn more attention on vocational education during this decade and has committed efforts on development and support for Rural Training Centres. This trend has been satisfactory.

Upgrading of untrained teachers is improving and there is now more room for teacher training at the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education (SICHE). Workshops are held regularly for instructors at rural training Centres.

Distance education programmes are conducted by Solomon Islands College of Higher Education (SICHE) and the University of the South Pacific (Solomon Islands Centre). This has gone on well.

The Curriculum Development Centre, a division of the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development is providing all school curriculum materials. They are providing the best they can within their budget. The Centre has been operating since 1980s.

The media has been active with educational programmes in the area of health, political awareness, women’s programmes, economical activities and information sharing. Media presentations are normally fair and precise.

Non-Government Organisations have contributed in the area of popular education (awareness) and appropriate training in useful life skills.

Despite the above progress Solomon Islands has yet a lot to do. The untrained element in the teaching force is not done away with and may affect quality. The drop-out rate is still substantial although many more have gone to secondary education after more Community High Schools opened as of 1995.

Youth programmes are not effective because of lack of strong policy guidelines and finance.

The authorities working along side the government to provide educational provisions do not always give financial support but expect the government to do so.

The Education Master Plan just recently drafted has stated that there is a need to improve access to all levels of education by girls and this should be high on the Governments agenda when considering educational policy. How this will be done is not yet clear at this point in time. However, within the Primary Schools, the objective may have largely been achieved already by looking at enrolment statistics. From 1994 to 1997 the percentage of girls out of the total enrolment has consistently been above 45%. In 1997 it has reached 45.8%. In terms of the sex ratio of 108 men to 100 women in the total population achieving a 45.8% enrolment ratio for girls at the primary school level may represent quite an achievement for a traditionally dominated male society such as that which has predominated in Solomon Islands.

Solomon Islands still face many hurdles. Cultural setbacks cause females to be less privileged than males in many ways. The land tenure system has a lot of impact on the development of schools and their existence. The high birth rate demands more schools to be built, while high illiteracy rates need more adult education programmes to be financed and administered.

The geographical nature of Solomon Islands is also a challenge when planning educational developments.

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