PNG teachers in for a lesson
The Kokoda Track Foundation (KTF) is pressing ahead with an urgent training project to up-skill thousands of elementary school teachers across Papua New Guinea.
According to KTF chief executive officer, Dr Genevieve Nelson, there are 600,000 school-aged children who do not attend school in PNG due to the lack of qualified teachers.
And, at the end of the year, more teachers could fall out of the system because of changes to the minimum qualifications they need.
Nelson says there are a large number of teachers across PNG who trained in the past 20 years, but were never given the opportunity to finish their studies.
But the six-week ‘ Teach for Tomorrow’ project now allows them to complete that training.
The project has already put 1200 partially trained teachers through the short course, but the aim is to have another 2500 graduate with a Certificate in Elementary Teaching.
The certificate meets the new minimum qualification needed by December 31 and allows the teachers to remain in the education system.
The project is a collaboration between KTF, the National Department of Education and PNG Education Institute.
Nelson says it has been financially backed by provincial governments, the Australian aid program, and corporate sponsors.
“But we’re always needing more help,” she says. “This is vitally important to the future education of Papua New Guineans.”
Nelson told one group of graduates from the up-skilling project that being a teacher is an honourable role.
“It is one of the most important roles within society. Every week, I entrust the care of my two young daughters to their pre-school teachers. I hope that these teachers will nurture, teach, develop, care for and love my most precious people in the entire world. Never underestimate the enormous impact you have on your students.”
The first ‘ Teach for Tomorrow’ course was in Oro Province last year, with 330 graduates. KTF reports that 88 per cent of participants on that course had been working as partially trained teachers for six years or more. KTF has since expanded the project to Gulf, Morobe and Milne Bay provinces, and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
KTF was established in 2003 to repay the support given to Australia by PNG during World War 2. Over the years, the presence of the aid and development agency has spread beyond the Kokoda region to include the entire country.
Hand-in-hand with the teacher-training program, the Australian charity, SolarBuddy. org, has been handing out solar lights to the teachers and school children so they can do schoolwork at night.
Solar Buddy inventor and chief executive officer, Simon Doble, says 17,000 lights have been donated around the globe in less than a year, in what he describes as a battle against ‘energy poverty’. About 1500 have been sent to PNG via KTF.
“Around the world, one in five people go to bed in total darkness,” says Doble.
In PNG, it’s estimated that only about 13 per cent of Papua New Guineans are on the electricity grid and only 3.7 per cent of the rural population is connected.
Children in newly solar-powered homes remain awake longer each day and use 38 per cent of their additional time for studying and reading, according to Doble.
“Our solar lights allow Papua New Guineans to study, prepare lessons or do business at night,” he says. “Apart from the education benefits, there are also environmental and economic benefits because people do not have to buy expensive torch batteries or kerosene (for lighting).”
The small lights run off a solar-charged battery that can be re-charged 500 times, providing up to 10 hours of light at a time. Replacement batteries are available.
Solar Buddy works with Australian school children, who assemble the lights, learn about energy poverty and donate the lights to children overseas.
Apart from PNG, the lights have been distributed in Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania, Myanmar, Nepal, Tibet and India.
See ktf.ngo, solarbuddy.org.
Front of class ... Genevieve Nelson addresses more than 500 teacher graduates at the Morobe Teach for Tomorrow graduation ceremony.
Lightbulb moment ... (left) a father in Uganda reads to his children with a Solar Buddy light. The lights are being distributed in PNG, too, hand- in- hand with a teacher training program by the Kokoda Track Foundation. Teacher graduates in Bougainville (above).