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The Solomon Islands was once identified as one of Pacific States with a high illiteracy rate. This is not surprising because introduction and expansion of the formal school system was slow at turn of the century. In the 1970s the illiteracy rate was around 78% which is high.
There are about 518 primary schools as recorded in 1995. With this number of schools distributed throughout the country all children in Solomon Islands reaching the school entry age of 6 could, in theory, attend one. With this information the illiteracy rate in Solomon Islands was addressed.
It was with the government’s programme of action (1989-1992) that a national literacy and language survey was conducted for the first time.
The attempt was to obtain comprehensive literacy data for the whole of Solomon Islands and was conducted from March 1991 to March 1992. Funds for the project were provided by the Australian High Commission and UNESCO through the Melanesian Literacy Council.
The survey results indicated very interesting findings such as:
· There is an illiteracy rate of 38%
· There is literacy rate of 22%
· 40% of people over 15 years old are semi-literate and so forth.
The National Literacy and Language Survey (1991/1992) conducted was steered by a National Literacy Committee.
The other development in literacy education was conducted in 1994 under the Basic Education and Life Skills (BELS) programme; it was a pilot project aiming at improving literacy in schools and communities supporting the school. Indeed its name was ultimately changed to Basic Education and Literacy Skills programme.
Initially five primary schools in Honiara were chosen as pilot schools to establish the project. Four different controlling authorities operated the schools. Approximately two thousands students and more than one hundred teachers participated in the programme which went on for nine months. Four education officers were also involved in the literacy project beside the pupils and teachers.
Despite problems encountered there was progress and achievement made during the pilot period and the work of the BELS programme is still operational to date, now progressing through phase three
The University of the South Pacific (USP) at Solomon Islands Centre is offering a course on adult literacy . The course offers training for trainers to teach adults in the area of literacy . The adult literacy -training course extends over a period of twelve weeks and is monitored and validated by the University of the South Pacific. It is a professional course leading to a Certificate in Adult Literacy . The first intake for the course was made last in 1998 with fifteen trainees who went through the course successfully. These trained teachers in adult literacy are now serving in various provinces.
According to reports of their activities one teacher has established a literacy class for thirty adults in Makira/Ulawa province and another in Honiara for fifteen adult students. Reports state that thirteen other new graduate teachers of adult literacy are expected in the near future.
Beside formal programmes aimed at reducing illiteracy rate, hence promoting literacy rate, religious groups have also conducted studies to assist youth and adults to read. Bible studies are the most common literature study. It is significant that many youth and adults could read the Bible although many had not attended school or if they had they had left school early.
Reduction of illiteracy rate is on going and with programmes established within the formal education system, some are administered by NGOs some by religious groups all this adds to the lowering of the illiteracy rate.
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.
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