On 31 August, partners came together at San Isidro Care Centre and School for the Deaf to celebrate the launch of the Iumi Tugeda Helpem Solomon Islands Def Comuniti project, which will help improve access to quality education for deaf children across Solomon Islands.
The project will increase the number of sign language trainers and provide deaf language training courses for communities across several provinces including in remote communities, where the greatest proportion of young deaf and hearing-impaired people live. This will help increase opportunities for deaf youth to participate in learning and engage with their communities. The project will also provide professional development for teachers on deaf language and inclusive education. Additionally, participants can receive a Certificate of Teaching and Learning from the Australian Catholic University (ACU), a qualification recognised by the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development (MEHRD).
The Catholic Education Office, Archdiocese of Honiara, which operates San Isidro Care Centre and School for the Deaf, is delivering the project in partnership with the ACU. Australia and New Zealand are providing funding under the Education Sector Support Program (ESSP) NGO Grants Program, which is implemented in partnership MEHRD.
At the project launch, Dr Franco Rodie, Permanent Secretary MEHRD, said that “Deaf students must be given equal opportunity to attend schools as their peers. It is a formal education that will enhance the ability of students who are deaf or cannot hear well to communicate and give them the skills and confidence to lead productive lives and to support their families.”
Ms Kate Bradlow, Deputy High Commissioner at the New Zealand High Commission, said that “everyone, regardless of your different abilities, has the right to be heard, learn, and thrive. ESSP recognises that it takes a whole community to educate a child and every part of our society, whether government, NGO, the Church or local community, has a role to play in growing Solomon Islands’ future leaders.”
Ms Samantha Vallance, First Secretary Education at the Australian High Commission, said that the project would complement other ESSP support to MEHRD to help mainstream inclusive education approaches and practices in areas such as teacher professional development and curriculum development.
The San Isidro Care Centre and School for the Deaf was established in 2008 as a live-in Rural Training Centre that teaches deaf and hard-of-hearing youth vocational training and life skills, as well as sign language.
According to the Solomon Islands National Statistics Office (2015 Disability Health Survey) 6.1% of the population is functionally impacted by some form of hearing impairment. However, these are likely to be conservative estimates due to data reliability challenges, which the project also aims to improve upon.
The ESSP 2020-2023 is a partnership between the governments of Solomon Islands, Australia and New Zealand to improve access to quality basic education for all children in Solomon Islands. The ESSP includes direct budget support for MEHRD to deliver annual work program activities aligned with the National Education Action Plan; technical advisory support to enable capacity development and skills transfer; and grants to non-government organisations to strengthen early childhood care and education, improve learning outcomes for disadvantaged children and community support for children’s learning.