Education Gap -Adult Students Twenty Five Years Too Late
Vanuatu’s tropical islands are renowned for it’s variety, with nearly 115 distinct cultures and languages. The International Year of Languages has been used as a springboard to bring together a diverse group of adults from across 83 islands across the archipelago of Vanuatu. They came together to learn to translate their oral language to a written form. 23 adult students from 12 different language groups arrived in Port Vila, to explore the value of writing their language.
Initially shy of meeting each other, language barriers were slowly broken down. Many Ni-Vanuatu people are multi-lingual, speaking French, Bishlama, English and their home language. Aged in their 30's these students learned basics at primary , but have relied on oral language as the main means of communication, with no exposure to writing their own language. In the communities, ancient custom traditions and tales of ancestors occur each day over the cooking pots, under the banyan tree, or throughout cultural ceremonies and dances.
The capital hosted the adult students, from as far away as the isolated, northern islands of Motalava and the remote, southern island of Tanna. “For most of us it is the first time we have left our island homes, flown in a plane, or crossed the ocean,” Jesse, a mama of three kids, explained in broken English. Faces glowed as students translated an extract from the Bible. It was the first time they had seen anything written in their language. “The workshop has shown the importance of meaningful communication through written translation,” explained one of the managers of the project. “The students will return to their communities full of pride, willing to share their knowledge and show the islands the importance of the written word.”
The Vanuatu government is unable to offer free education. Families, living in a ‘no-cash-economy’ struggle to find the fees for schooling. Consequently the result is horrific: • Only 55.8% of Vanuatu children will go to grade 6; • Of those only 18.2% will go to high school; • 26% will never go to school at all. Pig tusks, ceremonial mats, shells and even large rocks are the only currency in some islands. The pigs top teeth are knocked out so the bottom ones will grow into a curved tusk. A double circle tusk is highly prized , while three curls are a priceless rarity. Chief Viraleo and his colleagues set the value of the ‘traditional currency’ as one 'Livatu' to $US180. This would give the bank vault a reserve of almost $1b. At the 14 branches of the Tari Bunia Bank, the locals have savings accounts, cheque books and can even raise a mortgage. Interest is paid on deposits at a handsome 15%. Chief Viraleo, bolting the doors to the bank as he goes to lunch chuckles , “There are no robberies, as all the branches are guarded by spirits and snakes.”
The Vanuatu government declared the year 2007 as the year of “Kastom Ekonomi”, (Custom Economy). At the local primary school an elderly man clutches a pig’s skull and tusks as payment for fees for his 12-year-old daughter. In front of him a mother is handing over a woven money-mat to the school treasurer, to pay for her son's schooling. Many parents are unable to read or write in any language. Although voted the Happiest Country on Earth in 2006, Vanuatu is rich in the knowledge of their land, culture and traditions. However, they need help to educate the next generation . Donor funding pours into Vanuatu, a Lesser Developed Country, but very little ends up in education structure. YouMe Support Foundation, a Child Trust Fund, is dedicated to providing these kids a high school education. Rick and Wendy Tendys are raffling Seachange Lodge (a private holiday home, plus 6 luxury holiday apartments) on the Internet, to raise moneyfor non-repayable high school education grants for the children of the outer islands of Vanuatu. You can help , donate and make a difference in the lives of these people and you might win the boutique resort. Visit winaresort.com for your Blue Moon Opportunity.
Dr Wendy and her husband Richard are the Founders of YouMe Support Foundation, charity . Over the past four years they and their guests have provided desperately needed school supplies to remote island communities in the far north of Vanuatu through Seachange Lodge,Seachange Lodge YouMe Support Foundation in partner ship with Win a Resort is giving away Seachange Lodge on the Internet. All funds are placed into a Trust Fund to provide education for children who will never enter the 21st century without assistance. You can assist by making a donation to the children by going to or Win a Resort.