On 13 July 2022 senior officials from Solomon Islands, Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand convened the third Governance Committee meeting for the Solomon Islands Education Sector Support Program (ESSP).
The ESSP started in 2020 and is a partnership that acknowledges the important role of quality basic education in improving the lives of individuals, families and communities and as a foundation for the social and economic development of Solomon Islands. Discussions were frank and open, reflecting the warm and longstanding partnerships in the education sector between Solomon Islands, Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.
In the ESSP Governance Committee partners reflected on progress and made decisions on priorities. The Committee’s members are senior representatives from the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development (MEHRD) led by Permanent Secretary Dr Franco Rodie, the New Zealand High Commission led by Deputy High Commissioner Ms Kate Bradlow and the Australia High Commission led by Deputy High Commissioner Ms Sally-Anne Vincent.
The Committee also includes Permanent Secretaries from the Ministry of Finance and Treasury (MOFT), the Ministry of National Planning and Development Coordination (MNPDC), the Ministry of Public Service (MPS), the Ministry of Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening (MPGIS), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade (MFAET).
During her opening remarks as Chair, New Zealand Deputy High Commissioner Ms Kate Bradlow emphasised that “Today’s governance meeting is a demonstration of the importance of the education sector in delivering the priorities of Solomon Islands, namely supporting a prosperous, stable and inclusive nation and communities.
“The ESSP has demonstrated its value throughout the unprecedented challenges of the last twelve months. Using the foundation of strong relationships built on trust and mutual respect, we have flexibly responded to the most pressing priorities in the education sector, protecting the progress made in the sector and ensuring that progress continues into the future.”
The Permanent Secretary of MEHRD, Dr Franco Rodie noted that while the previous year had been challenging many achievements had been made.
“Apart from the priority areas for improved student enrolments and completion rates at each level of the education system and quality teaching and learning, I also want the Ministry to strengthen strategies for young people to enhance moral development, civic and citizenship education,” he said.
He further explained to the Committee that there is a need to teach our children practical skills, character building, moral and shared values, and behaviours that can make young people complete their education.
In his closing remarks, Rodie said “young people are the future of our country, and that education begins in the home.”
The Committee acknowledged the achievements of the program. ESSP has supported the development of the National Education Action Plan 2022-26 and the forthcoming Education Bill to provide a new strategy for education in the country. ESSP is supporting a Teacher in Training program to ensure all teachers are qualified, the launch of a new teacher professional learning and development program and a curriculum development program, and the implementation of a locally led capacity development framework.
Through the ESSP, MEHRD completed much needed school infrastructure projects including classrooms, a science lab and WASH projects across Solomon Islands. This included providing SBD $2 million for the urgent re-construction and refurbishment works at Honiara High School following damage sustained during the civil unrest in November 2021. The ESSP has also funded two rounds of education grants for non-government organisations to strengthen early childhood education and improve learning outcomes for disadvantaged children.
The Committee also agreed on priorities for the coming 12 months, including supporting MEHRD to implement the new Education Legislative Framework and to implement a new data management system. ESSP will continue to support MEHRD to deliver more school infrastructure improvements across Solomon Islands.
The Australian Deputy High Commissioner Ms Sally-Anne Vincent acknowledged the engagement of many key Ministries in the Governance Committee and said “the value of the ESSP partnership is that in working together we can find shared solutions to the recent shocks and challenges that have impacted the education sector and plan for the future”.
The combined ESSP investment is SBD$385 million over four years (2020-2023). The program aims to improve basic education participation and completion rates; improve learning outcomes for children in basic education (particularly literacy and numeracy); improve learning outcomes for disadvantaged children; and improve education sector management.