Australian High Commission
Solomon Islands

Better Teachers and New Libraries – A Volunteering Success Story from Malaita, Solomon Islands

25 May 2016

                                               Better Teachers and New Libraries – A Volunteering Success Story from Malaita, Solomon Islands

Working with and learning from teachers in Malaita was so rewarding for Australian volunteer Jessica Hampton, she signed up to come back again for a second year.

“The experience has given me the opportunity to challenge myself professionally and learn about culture, different perspectives and values as one of the few expats in the Auki community,” Jessica said.

The teacher trainer first worked with the Sinasu Community High School in Ambu village and this year directly with the Malaitan Education Authority.

Jessica’s role has been to develop the quality of teaching and learning for teachers in Malaita as well as support the administration and management in the Malaita Education Authority.

At Sinasu, Jessica worked with teachers to improve skills across literacy, numeracy, classroom management and in revising school policies.

Jessica’s enthusiasm for books saw her work with the Ambu community to develop Malaita’s first modern library at Sinasu School.

The training and new facilities have significantly improved the academic achievements of students and increased the quality of teaching with the school now becoming a model of teaching and education quality for other schools in Malaita.

This year, Jessica is based at the Teacher Training Division in the Malaita Education Authority office working closely with her counterparts, Teacher Training Officer, Jackson Rahemae and Chief of Education, Andy Siarani.

Malaita is the most populated province in the Solomon Islands, and the Education Authority oversees the largest number of students, teachers and schools in the country.

The trio is rolling out literacy workshops for all junior primary school teachers, establishing a team of local literacy trainers and equipping staff with the administrative skills to address Malaita’s unique challenges.

Andy Siarani emphatically supports the Australian volunteer program in Malaita.

“I have seen the benefits of this program as it directly impacts students from various schools. The knowledge that is shared from volunteers to schools spreads and progresses even after their assignment has finished. I would love to see this program continue to develop our staff until we can be self-sustainable and confident in providing quality education for all,” Andy said.

Building on last year’s success, Jessica and her colleagues have secured funding from the Australian Volunteer’s Community Grant Scheme to complete a Malaitan Provincial Library to be located at Auki Community High School.

Jessica claims that volunteering in the Solomon Islands has been one of the most beneficial and positive experiences of her life.

The highlight of her job is working with enthusiastic and dedicated teachers and seeing the amazing things they do in the classrooms after training.

“It has been so rewarding watching teachers take ownership of their profession, transform their teaching practices and raise the quality of education for their children,” Jessica said.

Life in Malaita has its challenges, but with a positive attitude to embracing Malaitan language and culture Jessica has made many Malaitan local friends.

Initially, most people Jessica worked with had limited or no experience with expats and speaking English.

“Learning how to speak Pijin and spending time listening and understanding people’s approaches towards life and work has helped me build strong relationships based on trust and respect,” Jessica said.

“As a result, everyone is much more open to trying out different approaches in the classroom and I enjoy spending time with friends at their houses for ‘stori’,” Jessica added.

Food in Malaita is significantly different to what was available in Australia and after much practice Jessica can confidently milk a coconut, gut a fish and cook cabbage in numerous ways.

“I’ve developed a taste for ‘kai kai’, especially kumara, lulunga (cabbage with coconut milk) and fish cooked in a motu oven by local women,” Jessica said.

Prior to volunteering in the Solomon Islands, Jessica worked as a primary school teacher in Australia, Fiji, Thailand and England.

She chose to come to the Solomon Islands after developing an interest in Pacific educational development during her studies and hearing stories about the beauty of the country and the people from family friends.

Jessica is grateful to the Australian Government for the opportunity to volunteer in the Solomon Islands.

“I strongly believe that volunteering can have a significant, sustainable and positive influence on organisations and people. Both the volunteer and their counterparts learn and grow together as they work towards a better future for all,” Jessica said.