Four of Vanuatu’s own Science Lecturers that lecture at Vanuatu’s Institute of Teacher Education (VITE) in Port Vila, have engraved their names in the history of teaching science in the country by writing the country’s first “Holistic Approach to Addressing COVID-19 in Vanuatu”.

This is a Facilitator Awareness Guide which is designed to assist the population of Vanuatu to recognise the symptoms of the Coronavirus and what to do to avoid catching it.

Funded by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), the Book was recently launched by ADRA Vanuatu Country Director Richard Greenwell at VITE.

Principal of VITE, Dr. Vomaranda Joy Botleng who is a graduate from the University of Bordeaux in France, and the first ni-Vanuatu woman to hold the post, handpicked four members of her teaching staff to research and produce the Facilitator Awareness Guide.

The Country Director of ADRA which funded the Training Manual, Richard Greenwell and the Project Manager, Dannie Masoe, handed over the 24-page Awareness Guide to the Principal of Vanuatu Institute of Teacher Education, Dr. Botleng and her Team of Writers last month.

The advantage of producing such an Awareness Guide is that, it is in simple language written by our own science indigenous lecturers at VITE.

The relevance of the current ADRA funded Facilitator Awareness Guide is self-explanatory as it states on the cover that ‘Yumi wok tuketa blong kipim Vanuatu COVID-19 Free!’ (Let us work together to keep Vanuatu COVID-19 free!)

In her opening address at the launching of the “Holistic Approach to Addressing COVID-19 in Vanuatu”, Dr. Joy Botleng welcomed the ceremony as marking a “product in Community Education” put together by a special team of writers from the Department of Science at VITE.

“The event also fulfils one of the missions of VITE which is to reach down into the communities to help them and not just focus on teaching and learning in the Institute but to also to reach out to help in the communities as well”, said the Principal.

“So this ceremony will also involve handing over a product in community education which our Science Department was involved in”.

The product has linked the Community, Church, Education and Health.

“This is the first step for us towards building a partnership with the community and other stakeholders”, she said.

In response the ADRA Country Director confirmed that his organisation engaged writers who are Lecturers from VITE “to develop the Awareness Guide” which was approved by the Ministry of Health.

Mr. Jean Jacques Rory from the Department of Public Health has welcomed ADRA’s involvement in funding the Training Manual saying linking VITE to enable its Science Lecturer Professionals to write the Manual only goes to confirm the MOU that has been signed between the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health.

He welcomed the Training Manual as taking the health message right down to the doorstep of the home and classroom.

The Director of the Project is Dr. Botleng and the writers of the publication are Mr. Lemual Moli, Mr. Flexon Tanga and Madam Annette Theophile.

“I guess the purpose of this Guide is to ensure that what ADRA Vanuatu is going into communities and teaching and training with COVID-19, is in line with the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation key messages that was very important”, the ADRA Country Director said.

In addition, he said the decision to develop a Holistic Training Manual was as a result of their training programme in the communities.

And this is not the first time for ADRA Vanuatu to work with VITE either. In 2019, they partnered in developing an important Family Life Education Training Manual called Blossom.

On the question as to why ADRA is involving VITE in its projects, the Country Director explained that while so much information on COVID-19 is available overseas but that it is not within the context or understanding for Vanuatu.

“So for us it is very important that we have experienced people (in Vanuatu) that can help us develop and take information and put it in the local context. That will increase our ability to cut through issues and to make a bigger impact in communities”, Director Greenwell said.

“So we hope that moving forward we can have many more relationships and partnerships with VITE. We really value this as it makes our work more effective”.

Through the project, ADRA has installed 154 hand washing facilities in 51 communities on the islands of Tanna, Efate and Santo to benefit 11,000 people.

“So now we know that if COVID dies away or continues then we know that we have a good resource with which to continue to train people”, Greenwell said.

The Manual provides factual information on COVID-19, and how to prevent the virus from spreading if it does come to Vanuatu.

“It looks at gender and economic impacts within families and communities and looks at WASH which is the Water And Sanitation Hygiene and looks at food security and disability inclusion and lastly the psycho, social and Divine Hope that we have”, he said.

“So I think it’s an exciting thing that we’re doing in that we are not talking about one thing but a holistic training programme. Lastly, we want to thank VITE and the Ministry of Health for the partnership built on the success of the COVID-19 awareness programme.

“We also understand that VITE will come into full operation with its first Degree in Education next year so we are happy for VITE to have a copy of this programme in its library and hopefully it will be beneficial”.

The Head of the Science Department and Science Lecturer and one of the writers of the Training Manual, Madam Annette Theophile, thanked ADRA and all other staff of VITE, for the working relationship established as a result of the Training Manual. “On behalf of the Department of Science, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the ADRA Team especially Madam Masoe for the trust that was placed on the Department of Science to be able to carry out the important task of producing the Training Manual which we are able to witness its official launching”, the Head of the Department of Science said.

“This project is in line with community support which is directly in line with our responsibility as Trainers in the Community and I wish to thank ADRA for the partnership which has helped to promote knowledge through informal education in the village, community and the church. VITE looks forward for more cooperation with ADRA in the future”.

All writers interviewed have expressed their satisfaction of being involved in the Project. They confirmed the Country Director’s emphasis that using such a Training Manual developed by indigenous writers is vital to helping the communities to understand it better.

Each of the writers has woken up the hidden truth that it is possible to train local students to have an interest in science subjects including Physics, Chemistry and Biology, to prove to lecturers from the University of the South Pacific that Pacific Islanders are interested in studying science subjects.

The writers’ advice to primary and secondary school students is that they have to ask questions and want to know what and why things happen the way they do to become interested in science subjects.

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