Article One Project, Stage 2: Welcome prospects for teaching Human Rights in Solomon Islands’ ACoM schools

Today (25 March) we spent our final day in Honiara.  We met with Desmond Waita (ACoM Education Secretary) to exchange feedback from our visit. Desmond thanked us for a successful programme, and we thanked him for all the support, for organising his team and for what he has done on behalf of the project.  He has given us renewed assurances that he will be recommending to the Education Board that Human Rights lessons are included in the education standards.  He sees it sitting very well alongside the programme on ‘Christian Distinctiveness’.  There are also plans to hold a teacher training workshop to be run by some of our Human Rights Champions in the coming year.

There does seem to be a genuine energy and commitment to making sure the programme is followed up and pursued through to the integration of Human Rights principles in ACoM school ethos.  This includes some recognition that more could be done to ensure that corporal punishment is not used by any teacher.  Desmond is aware that, although it is not allowed, some individual teachers still use corporal punishment particularly in the primary sector.  Currently this is only addressed with the individual teacher if a parent complains.  We suggested that this might be something that could be addressed in staff development programmes.  Overall a very successful and positive meeting.  We spent the rest of the day relaxing and we are preparing to leave, to start our journey home tomorrow.  😊

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Article One Project, Stage 2: Delegate evaluations (March 2019)

Every worthwhile project plans for feedback from those it engaged. So that’s what we did. Here are the results of our survey with the workshop delegates.

Participants were asked:

  1. How would you rate your knowledge and understanding of human rights before the workshop?

11/28 rated their existing knowledge as good/excellent.

6/28 rated their existing knowledge as reasonable.

11/28 rated their existing knowledge as low/some.

  1. How would you rate your knowledge and understanding of human rights not that you have completed the workshop?

All participants rated their knowledge and understanding as good or excellent.

12/28 chose ‘Excellent’.

16/28 chose ‘Good’.

  1. How confident do you feel about teaching human rights now that you have completed the workshop?

All participants rated themselves as ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’.

12/28 chose ‘very confident’.

16/28 chose ‘confident’.

There was no direct pattern of rating between knowledge and confidence level.  Some rating knowledge as excellent, chose confident, some very confident and likewise for those rating their knowledge as good, some felt very confident, others confident.

  1. What do you see as the main benefits for your students in receiving human rights education?

Responses mentioned:

To be aware and understand they have rights and also responsibilities.

To become positive people with a caring attitude of respect for self and others.

To be able to understand differences and learn about equality.

To value and respect their community, and promote peaceful unity at school.

To know the Importance of right to education. Stay focussed in their learning.

That they will feel protected and safe.

To understand about GBV and domestic violence.

  1. What barriers, if any, might you experience in delivering human rights education in your school?

Responses mentioned:

Overcrowding, large class sizes make it difficult to teach, but also to notice unfair treatment of the general student population.

Lack of resources, money, time and space.

Needs to be part of ‘standards’ curriculum so time can be given consistently.

Understanding and knowledge of superiors. That “They may think I am trying to force something they do not understand”.

Other colleagues and parents not understanding and/or supporting/misinterpretation.

Existing culture and customs.

More training needed to more teachers.

  1. What additional support, if any, do you think you will need or would like to have to help you deliver human rights education in your school?

Responses mentioned:

Regular organised visits from human rights organisations to the school.

Need approval from education authority and all education stakeholders.

Support from school administration.

Financial support; extra resources.

More teachers trained.

Technology to show videos and use power point.

This needs to be part of the curriculum.

A set time for this to be taught.

An exchange programme for teachers between Solomon Islands/PNG and the UK.

  1. In your role as a human rights champion, apart from delivering human rights lessons, what else might you do to promote human rights in your school and community?

I will speak out and talk to the community where I see abuse.

Improve the school discipline measures to be fairer. Talk and explain to students why rules are important and talk to them about their rights but also their responsibilities.

Integrate the human rights topic to their subject teachings.

Start Human Rights awareness club, hold awareness talks and workshops. Peer conversation talks, community talks and group discussions. Ask students to create slogan on ‘Human Rights’.

Conduct in-service training for staff professional development. Raise awareness with other teachers in my school before I introduce this to the students.

Emphasis human rights awareness during parents and citizenship meetings. Invite parents on school board to improve awareness.

To work with other ‘Champions’ to go into other schools in other provinces to do awareness workshop.

Be a role model myself. “Be the change I wish to see in the world.”

Talk to my colleagues and my family.

Work towards better gender equality and no domestic violence. Become involved in women’s groups, activities and workshops.

Promote and get involved in sports activities especially for girls.

Help others understand the benefits of human rights.

Promote through media, drama group to be formed.

Start locally: Rights in my home, school, class.

Report compiled by Christine Calderwood, Article One Project Lead (24 March 2019)

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Article One Project Stage 2: Successes, collaboration and next steps

We have now completed our four-day programme with 28 teachers from Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

The teachers who attended represented 20 schools across the primary and secondary sector. Seventeen of the delegates were from the primary sector and the remaining from secondary. Six of the delegates had previously attended our 2016 programme. Adding together the populations of these schools means that a total of 22,445 students, plus the staff and communities, now have a ‘Human Rights Champion’.

Our evaluation feedback from the delegates showed a clear progress in knowledge, understanding and confidence between the start and end of the programme. Only 39% of delegates rated their knowledge and understanding as good/excellent at the start. This rose to 100% at the end of the programme. Very promisingly, 100% of the delegates rated themselves as confident or very confident in delivering lessons on, and promoting, human rights.

The delegates identified many barriers to successful delivery, including and unsurprisingly: the current culture/customs; large class sizes; the lack of resources; and the need for Human Rights Education to be officially included on the curriculum. We will be meeting with Desmond Waita (ACoM Education Secretary) tomorrow to discuss the next steps for all stakeholders. We will make our full report available on our website as soon as possible.

Paul Dryden (Deputy British High Commissioner for The Solomon Islands) will also be at this meeting and has pledged that the British High Commission will do all they can to support the formal inclusion of Human Rights Education in the curriculum and education standards here in The Solomon Islands. We will be talking also to Simon Burton (Deputy British High Commissioner for PNG) and are hopeful for similar support to progress Human Rights Education in PNG.

We have been concerned to hear about the low literacy rates in The Solomon Islands. Combined with the very high ongoing population growth, this means that more and/or larger schools are needed, along with a greatly increased supply of trained teachers as a priority.

In addition to the weekday workshops, we held a one-day workshop today (Saturday, 23 March) at the request of the religious orders. This workshop was also attended by the representatives from the Mothers Union. Attendance was 24 in total. The religious orders represented were the Community of Sisters on the Church, the Community of Sisters of Melanesia, and SSF – the Franciscan Brotherhood. After some initial concerns about language barriers, we were able to deliver our planned programme with the help of Sister Veronica. We introduced human rights and human rights issues. Subsequently, we discussed human rights concerns in The Solomon Islands with a particular focus on gender-based violence and domestic violence. The programme was received positively and ended with some singing and dancing which was enjoyed by everyone.

Today (Sunday, 24 March) we attended the Liturgical Farewell service for Archbishop George A Takeli. It was attended by more than 1,200 people. He spoke about the need to ensure that we do not let economic and capitalist considerations prevent us from tending to the pastoral needs of the people. He referred to Luke (Chapter 13, Verses 1-9), “The parable of the barren fig tree”, to make his point that we must nurture and take care of others if we are to see fruit. We hope that the teachers with whom we have worked this week will nurture and grow the knowledge they have acquired and be supported in doing so by their schools and the education authorities.

We are now enjoying an afternoon off. After our meeting tomorrow we hope to enjoy some time looking around the craft market before making our final preparations for our journey home to The UK. We are all looking forward to being home and with our families again.

Lumitrifala lukim iu nekis wik. 😊

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Article One Project Stage 2: The rain does not defeat us!

Day three of the workshops… and finally we have Wi-Fi after three days of heavy rain. Three days of workshops have been completed. Our energy levels are low, but we are still smiling. We have enjoyed welcoming back our human rights champions from 2016 and hearing about their experiences, the positive impacts over the past two years and stories of personal change. The teachers from Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea have engaged with enthusiasm. Today they presented their own lesson ideas on human rights showing what they have learnt and how they have developed over the last three days of the programme. We have received positive feedback including PNG teachers sharing their motivation to ask their government for further human rights education.

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Article One Project Stage 2: Friends old and to-be, impressions and preparations

Monday, 18 March 2019

Today we (the Team) were very lucky to be kindly and warmly welcomed by both the Norman Palmer School and St Nicholas College.

The day started with a visit to the Norman Palmer School, where we were welcomed in the school assembly and even got to hear the children singing a hymn and the Solomon Islands national anthem.  A song is always a good way to start the day in the Solomons; they are well known for being beautiful singers!

After this we were shown around the school and visited classes of all ages and subjects. We even got to see the buildings that Chris and her family helped to paint during their visit back in 2013.

From there we went to St Nicholas College and met many teachers and students, all of whom were very friendly.  Indeed, some of the kids were very playful and particularly enjoyed giving us a high five ✋… and even a fist bump 🤜🤛!

At St Nicholas College, the average class size is around 70!  Demand for school places far outstrips the classroom spaces and teachers available.  We were very impressed by the teachers’ ability to teach so many students at once but hope that soon the school will have more classrooms and teachers, and perhaps be able to take on even more students.

Finally, we met with the Education Secretary at ACoM to catch-up and confirm that everything is ready for the workshops.  We are pleased to report that everyone seems to be prepared… fingers crossed!

We are very excited for the start of the workshops tomorrow (Tuesday, 19 March).  We are very much looking forward to meeting all the new teachers taking part, and to welcoming back the teachers from the 2016 workshops so that we can hear about how they’ve been getting on over the past two and a half years! 😊

Have wanpela good laplap bilong windo everyone.

More tomorrow…

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Article One Project Stage 2: Arrival, settling in… and brains!

The team arrived in Honiara a few days ago (Friday, 15 March).  Here are the highlights, in their words, from that day:

“We are very lucky to be staying with Paul Dryden, Deputy High Commissioner, at his residence. It’s very comfortable and we’re being looked after well.

“We went to the market yesterday (Saturday) morning to buy fresh vegetables.  After about 40 hours of travel, we needed some good things to eat!

“Jet lag has been hitting each of us in waves, at different times, but between us we have at least one functioning brain! We should be firing on all cylinders by Monday morning.

“We met up with some of the students from Project Trust.  They will be joining us for the workshops during the week.  They are here for eight to twelve months during their gap years, teaching a variety of subjects in schools throughout the provinces.  Very impressive young people.

“Tomorrow (Monday, 18 March) we will be visiting the Norman Palmer School. Very much looking forward to seeing the school again and meeting the students and staff.  We will be delivering and collecting letters between Norman Palmer and partner schools in Feniton and Ottery St Mary (East Devon, UK).

“More soon…”

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Article One Project Stage 2: Ten days and counting!

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“we are all born free and equal. We have our own thoughts and ideas. We should all be treated the same way” Article 1 United Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

In November 2016, we travelled to Honiara as part of the project ‘Article 1: Free and Equal’ to deliver Human Rights Education training to teachers from Solomon Island secondary schools. ‘Article 1’ is a project to introduce human rights to the Solomon Islands, to increase understanding of human rights and how this integrates with existing Christian beliefs and values. Thereby helping to support efforts being made by Solomon Island Citizens to create peaceful and stable communities, and particularly to help reduce gender inequality and violence against women. We firmly believe that all learning and change starts with Education.

“learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause”

Isaiah 1:17

The workshops were attended by 11 teachers from 6 schools across the Solomon Islands. All of the teachers engaged enthusiastically with the workshops and successfully completed them, becoming ‘Human Rights Champions’ with a commitment to pass on their learning to colleagues and their wider communities.

Whilst there we were generously welcomed by both the Community of the Sisters of the Church and the Melanesian Brotherhood. Meetings also took place with a number of stakeholders (including the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development, the Ministry for Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs, the Solomon Islands Police Force, and the President of the Mothers Union) The project was positively received by all, and all agreed that national implementation of some form of human rights education would be beneficial and a positive contribution towards ongoing efforts to promote gender equality.

Since returning the team were pleased to receive very positive feedback and encouragement to apply for further funding by the British High Commissioner’s (BHC) Office, to continue and expand the Human Rights Education programme.

Having secured further funding we are due to return in March of this year. The second stage project aims to extend the training to primary school teachers as well as providing further training for secondary human rights champions. The project was also picked up by the BHC on Papua New Guinea and we are delighted that we have teachers from PNG joining us for this stage. We have a total of 29 confirmed attendees and will also be holding at their request a one-day workshop for the Community of Sisters of the Church and the Melanesian Brotherhood.

We are also delighted to have secured a performance by Stages in Change theatre group for our end of workshop celebration.

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