“Parents do not need to worry about having to pay for a bus to get their children to school and back anymore, and to me Goodwill School moving to Tagabe and Black Sands means accessibility."
Minister of Infrastructure and Public Utilities, Jotham Napat, made the remarks when he welcomed the school to its new location at its Family Fun Day opposite Wan Smol Bag Theatre yesterday.
The Minister who grew up as a boy at Blacksand said, relocating the school to the area is the best thing that has happened because the communities of Tagabe, Blacksand and Bladiniere Estates are growing very fast and Goodwill School’s arrival where it is today is timely. The current number of students stands at about 300.
John Tonner, Managing (Director of South Sea Shipping) and his family and his mother who he calls “Princess” are the pioneers of Goodwill School.
While Goodwill School’s Family Fun Day was organised to encourage parents and their children to interact with the staff and relax and enjoy a fun day together, the day also coincided with the Princess’s 64th birthday.
As soon as he heard this, the Minister did not hesitate to ask over 200 children and parents to sing “Happy birthday to you Princess”, before she cut a number of delicious chocolate cakes!
The Minister also thanked Princess for her contributions towards pioneering Goodwill School saying without her; it would not be possible for parents to smile and enjoy such a family fun day.
John Tonner said the objective of the family fun day is to continue the education of the children and not to fundraise towards the school. It explained why everything was either given out for free or for ridiculously reduced prices even as low as 10 vatu per item.
“It is an opportunity to smile and provide a family environment to share the good times together and today is one of those days," Tonner said.
“We also have a few things we are giving out for free like shoes to help our students with and pillows to promote literacy.
"Students have to write their names to be given a free pillow."
The school is still in its early stages of development with junior school from kindy to class four and senior school from (class) four to ten. A school hall and music programme and a Confucious Society to help with teaching Mandarin Chinese, are in the pipeline.
On the long run, John Tonner said they have an ambitious target to assist with taking onboard 5,000 students as far as year 13.
“This school is targeting 800 kids and now we are working in partnership with the community at Erakor for a second location out there.
"Education in Vanuatu is a challenge and is not for free, it’s difficult to have compulsory education so we‘ve got to interact with families so that some of them who do not have an education can understand the importance of educating their kids," he said.
Asked what is special about Goodwill School Mr Tonner replied, “Well I guess for my family and I, we do this as an opportunity to give back to the community and help Vanuatu grow.
"That’s special for us that we can create a safe environment for kids to learn and help Vanuatu grow. This school is about the tomorrows of Vanuatu."
John Tonner’s Vanuatu passport is on its way and he is looking forward to becoming ‘man Vanuatu’.