Four mothers who are Early Childhood Education (ECE) teachers were among the 100-plus students that graduated at the University of the South Pacific’s Emalus Campus yesterday.
The women were beaming with joy because they were awarded with Certificate 3 in ECE. Acting National Coordinator of ECE, Smith Anderson said that after the independence of Vanuatu in 1980, the government didn’t recognize the importance of early childhood education but this has gradually improved over the years.
“Early Childhood Education is a pathway for education,” Anderson said. He said that there are 70% of teachers of Kindergarten schools throughout the country that need further training.
The Acting Coordinator said currently there is a policy in place which targets equipping the teachers with certificates, diplomas and degrees.
Anderson said the ECE teachers that graduated yesterday are teachers that are under Shefa Education.
The main person behind of the success of the four mothers who taught them at Emalus Campus, Brownly Suvwa, said he is very happy of their success. He said if these women managed to get their certificate, the other teachers of ECE can also do the same.
He said the training of ECE teachers is only available in Port Vila and many of the teachers reside on the islands. The training program covers anglophone and francophone teachers and the teaching materials are in English.
Since the introduction of the policy on free access to education in the primary level by the then Minister of Education, Charlot Salwai in 2009, it was noticed that in order to have access to primary level, a child must complete ECE.
The school fees imposed by the Kindergarten institutions, most which are private, were a stumbling block to the education of a child, especially for the parents that cannot afforded to pay. In 2016, the then Minister of Education and current Vice-chancellor of the National University, Jean-Pierre Nirua introduced a new policy to implement policy of free access in education starting from Kindergartens and extended from Year 7 to Year 10 at the secondary level. This has allowed the government to inject grants into both government and private-owned Kindergarten schools throughout the country. The government also decided at the time to include these teachers in its payroll.
Following the injection of the government grant and the payment of teachers’ salaries, the Ministry of Education offered a programme to train the teachers. Before the introduction of free access policy, Kindergarten teachers with no teaching background were recruited by the communities. Communities were also responsible for their salaries.