In our last newsletter, we shared about a new opportunity – to help develop a curriculum for an ECE (Early Childhood Education) program in two schools. The first step was to hold a workshop for ECE in a Kwaio-speaking area on Malaita Island. The venue for the workshop was a beautiful Catholic station where we were welcomed warmly by the Sisters of Charity.
This ECE project is under the direction of two local non-profit organisations, LASI (Literacy Association Solomon Islands) and COESI (Coalition for Education Solomon Islands). While we taught most of the workshop content, three trainers from LASI were observing, as they will be responsible for the ongoing training of teachers in the program.
The training included looking at principles of early childhood education and preparing a ‘cultural calendar’ for their community. This involves a process of thinking about weather patterns, seasons, growing seasons, etc. in the local community. The teachers then used that cultural calendar to choose weekly themes for the curriculum.
One of the next tasks will be to develop storybooks for the various themes. We have enlisted the help of the Kwaio Bible translator, David Fonosimae, to help translate some books into Kwaio, using the Bloom Library, which was developed by SIL International. You can look at the books that David has translated here: Bloom Library – Kwaio books. We are looking forward to adding more books to the Bloom Library.
In early 2022, we plan on going back to Malaita for a writers’ workshop where the teachers will write original stories to coordinate with the curriculum.
The teachers left the workshop excited about the things they learned. Their village community will be working on building a classroom for the many small children who will benefit from this new program.
When the opportunity came up to travel to Malaita Island with my friend, Priscilla, I jumped at the chance. Priscilla is the National Coordinator of the Literacy Association of the Solomon Islands (LASI) and she was going with some colleagues to visit Sinasuu Village, where LASI has had a successful literacy program.
In addition to the visitors from LASI and COESI (Coalition for Education Solomon Islands), the village was preparing for the arrival of the Australian and New Zealand High Commissioners (within the British Commonwealth, this is the equivalent to the position of Ambassador) the next day.
The successful Sinasuu Village Literacy Program was originally designed to meet the needs of illiterate adults, but kids started coming to classes as well. The nearest school is 2 kilometres (1.25 miles) away, so it was too far for young children to walk. By the time they were old enough to walk to school, they had already missed the foundational years of kindergarten and first grade, so many never went to school at all.
LASI helped the community start a preschool program. The community built a classroom from local materials and the kids were able to attend class. But the building is small and there are a lot of kids in the village.
Australia and New Zealand agreed to help fund a permanent school building and that is why they were coming to visit the village.
LASI and COESI agreed to help provide a curriculum for the kids that was appropriate for their age, in their own Kwaio language, that would be culturally appropriate. They were able to find funding to cover the costs of curriculum development, teaching materials and teacher training.
As you can imagine, the village is excited to be getting a school building and program which will help educate their kids right in their own village and in their own language.
We are pleased that LASI and COESI have asked SITAG (Solomon Islands Translation Advisory Group) to write the curriculum and Tim and I are excited to take this on. Martha having seen the local situation will certainly make writing the job easier.
We feel excited and honored to serve the people of Sinasuu and help develop a curriculum that we hope will be helpful to other communities around the country.