Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika) Winnie Laban and Dr Pala Molisa from Victoria University help local school children plant a tree at the

opening of the Tauawia Early Childhood Resource and Research Centre in Manua, Vanuatu. Photo: Murray Lloyd Photography

Children in the villages of Paunangisu and Emua on Efate now have a new cyclone-proof early education centre at Manua, thanks to the Victoria University of Wellington

, its staff, students and two student groups who joined forces to fundraise over Vt2.2million ($28,000) in aid.

Emua and Paungangisu was one of the many villages on the island severely damaged after Category 5 cyclone Pam hit on March 13, 2015.

Most of the kindergartens in the province were destroyed in the cyclone, forcing staff to teach under tarpaulins or in tents, and without adequate resources.

Immediately following the cyclone, the Victoria University staff and students, with the Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association and the Pasifika Students’ Council, began fundraising to help the devastated region.

Victoria University then matched their fundraising efforts dollar-for-dollar.

Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika) Luamanuvao Winnie Laban and lecturer Dr Pala Molisa, who is originally from Vanuatu, spoke at the official opening in front of about 200 people, including representatives from Vanuatu’s Ministry of Education and Training, the New Zealand High Commissioner, Volunteer Service Abroad, and members of the Manua community including local chiefs, educators, children and their families last Tuesday.

Assistant Vice-Chancellor Luamanuvao Laban says it was an honour to open the new early education centre on behalf of the Victoria University community.

“This wonderful new facility will open the door for education for many Vanuatu children and strengthen early childhood education throughout the province,” she said.

“It’s a wonderful result for the region, and one the whole Victoria community can be proud of contributing to.”

The Tauawia Early Childhood Resource and Research Centre will serve as a provincial hub for early education. In addition to classrooms and a resource library, it will also be a centralised place for field-based teacher training and research opportunities.

Local school children gave a performance during the opening and participated in a tree planting ceremony.

Dr Molisa says it is great to see the generosity of Victoria’s community help bring long-term gains in education to its neighbours in the Pacific.

“Not only will this centre be a solid foundation for Manua children to begin their education, it will also enable further training of local teachers, which can be shared with others in the province and will benefit other teachers and their students for generations to come,” he said.

Victoria University partnered with Volunteer Service Abroad and Vanuatu’s Ministry of Education and Training to establish the centre.

-University of Victoria

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