A call for fund raising to support the education of underprivileged children in the Solomon Islands
In today’s edition of the Solomon Star newspaper, there is a letter from retired Bishop Raymond Aumae in which he outlines the idea of a charitable organization, to be known as, ‘Compassionate Education Trust Fund,’ being legally registered in the Solomon Islands for the purpose of raising funds to support the education of underprivileged children.
Bishop Aumae writes that underprivileged children suffer in their education due to a lack of alternative financial support.
He also wrote, quote:
“After being in the village for fifteen (15) years working alongside our people as a retired pastor of the church, I have come to discover and experience the challenges and hardships that many of our children are experiencing in their education from forms 1-7 or even at SINU.”
“Some of these children have even been compelled to leave school, deprived of their future. Any hope for them to reach a better life is an impossible dream. Their poor widowed mothers are simply not able to support the education of their children.”
As a general principal, as it applies to the Solomon Islands, access to basic education lies at the heart of development. Lack of educational access, and securely acquired knowledge and skill, is both a part of the definition of poverty, and a means for its diminution. Sustained access to meaningful learning that has value is critical to long term improvements in productivity, the reduction of inter-generational cycles of poverty, demographic transition, preventive health care, the empowerment of women, and reductions in inequality.
I lack sufficient knowledge of the school system of education in the Solomon Islands to make an detailed comment on Bishop Aumae’s article except to say that I am aware that Basic Education is a right of every child in the Solomon Islands and the government aims to enroll all children in Basic Education (Primary and Junior Secondary schooling).
In 2009 or 2010, the SIG introduced a policy of Free Basic Education from Standard 1 up to Form 3.
I know from my past service in the Solomon Islands that many police members struggled with finding school fees and often needed to get help to keep their children at school.
Perhaps Bishop Aumau could write a little more on the concerns of school drop-out due to parents being unable to pay school fees and I will be pleased to post details on my website - www.solomonislandsinfocus.com - in the hope the needs he has described can possibly get international attention and offers of help.
I do recall last year, the Australian broadcaster, ABC Radio, saying Prime Minister Scott Morrison had been urged to invest in girls' education during his visit to Solomon Islands, as a report revealed the Solomons had one of the lowest secondary school graduation rates for girls in the world.
The news broadcast covered several key points, which were (quote)
“Dropping out of high school lead to unemployment and limited access to health care
· Girls were not valued as much as boys in the Solomons, according to Plan International
· Girls in the Solomons were campaigning for school fees to be abolished
“Advocacy group Plan International revealed that while about 70 per cent of girls finish primary school, that figure plummets to just 7 per cent for secondary school.
“The report listed mandatory school fees for years 10-12, high rates of gendered violence and underage marriage, and significantly fewer job opportunities for girls over boys as key reasons why girls leave school early.
“Dropping out of high school can lead to unemployment, a lack of financial independence, and limited access to health care.
"Plan International Australia CEO Susanne Legena said girls were not valued as much as boys in the Solomons and this had a massive impact on their lives and future prospects.
“The report said girls perform a higher percentage of domestic chores, with an average of 18 hours every week dedicated to cleaning, cooking and caring duties in the home.
“Social stigma towards girls who become pregnant out of wedlock or engage in relationships has also resulted in school expulsions or pressure to drop out of school, Plan International said.
“Ms Legena said she wanted Australia's aid program to add a specific commitment to girls education to ensure that none are "left behind".
"We must do better by all the girls and young women of the Solomon Islands.
"We want girls to be at the heart of their aid strategy for the region and we would strongly encourage [the Australian Government] to join us in asking the Solomon Islands Government to abolish all school fees."
“Kate Phillips, who co-authored the Plan International report, told the ABC the Australian Government's infrastructure spending should include improving school facilities for girls.
"Girls spoke to us about the need for more inclusive infrastructure, so more toilet blocks and shower blocks and more accessible infrastructure for girls with disabilities," she said, adding that the 60 girls who took part in the report saw education as a "path to employment", financial stability and being empowered.
"For every year of secondary school completion, they are at less risk of child marriage and early pregnancy, and they're more likely to achieve gender equity in their home and in their relationships."
“The schoolgirls told Plan International that abolishing school fees would be one of the best incentives to keep more girls in the education system.
“Katrina, 17, who attends Mbokona Community High School in West Honiara, said making school more affordable would have a dramatic impact on the country's health and prosperity.
"There are many smart girls out there who could have been educated but were never given the chance, or situations they are in prevent them from accessing education," she said.
Source : ABC Radio,