03 March 2015

Providing tools for life: Solomon Islands educators and artists come together for children.

Participants of the Getting Ready for School and Life. Innovative
Communication and Learning Materials for Early Childhood Education (ECE) workshop 

A workshop organised by the Solomon Islands Ministry of Education and Human Resources with support from UNICEF proved to be unexpectedly life-changing for many participants. 

More than 50 talented and well-known Solomon Islands graphic designers, illustrators, photographers and Early Childhood teachers came together in February for a workshop facilitated by Barbara Kolucki from UNICEF, an expert in communicating with children. 

The workshop was held because recent research in the Solomon Islands found that parents and caregivers don’t have enough learning materials to use with their youngest children. With Barbara Kolucki’s expert support and guidance, the participants were trained to fill that gap, designing stories and print materials for parents and caregivers to use with young children, helping to prepare them for school and life.

 Graphic artist Steve Lenuel Rauona from Malaita province working
on one of the materials for the workshop.

For some participants learning about the importance of early childhood education also meant learning new skills that they could use in their own lives. Graphic artist Steve Lenuel Rauona from Malaita province told the group that he will now use the skills he has learnt at home with his young children as well as in preparing learning resources for others, saying, “This is a life-changing experience for me and I am sure that I will take home what I have learnt at this workshop and build on my profession as an artist and my responsibility as a father. I believe what we are producing at the workshop will benefit and strengthen families across the country … the way the facilitator convinced us to take off our adult hats and think like a child in order to produce children’s books was incredible, and it worked.”

Graphic designer John Manemaka

Graphic designer John Manemaka also got more than he bargained for when sent to Tamboko community with his group to photograph children and caregivers for a book that shows how caregivers can model a range of positive behaviours and discipline. The children were shy about posing for the photo shoot and the group was about to give up when John stepped in to make the children feel at ease, acting the clown and getting the children dancing and comfortable with being photographed. “I had the most enjoyable moment in my life filled with laughter. In the end we got all the shots we needed and the day was indeed successful.”

John adds “I really enjoyed the workshop and what we produced at the end we ourselves could not believe. But one thing is for sure and that is team work. Parents, caregivers and children I promise you, you will all love it once it’s produced. A big thanks to the Ministry of Education and Human Resources and UNICEF for this wonderful opportunity to be part of the workshop.” 

President of the Early Childhood Education Teachers Association Grace Piko dancing with students at an evacuation center during the Solomon Islands Floods in 2014.

Early Childhood Education teacher and President of the Early Childhood Education Teachers Association Grace Piko found that the workshop gave her space to reflect on her profession and to embrace some new ways of thinking, saying “Playing, singing and telling stories are very much part of an Early Childhood Education teacher’s life. However teachers will agree with me that in many cases we engage in these activities for the sake of fulfilling our role as teachers without realising that these activities are an important part of a child’s learning process. This is what I’ve learned from the workshop and it really encouraged me. It offers me the right environment to rethink my strategies and approach … in order to help our children to learn and prepare them for school and life, parents and caregivers must also behave like a child and think like a child.”

Photographer and graphic designer Steven Alufurai accepting his certificate of participation.
For photographer and graphic designer Steven Alufurai the workshop also changed his definition of a father’s role, saying “For me providing food on the table, clothes for my children and shelter was my only primary role as a father. This workshop really changed all this. On day one I learned that interaction between parents/caregivers and children through play, songs, story-telling and modelling good behaviours are all important responsibilities that parents or caregivers need to engage in and practice in order that children can be better prepared for school and life. Out of curiosity I decided to tuck my little girl to bed. Before she went to sleep she asked me if we could count to 10 together. I nodded and we began. I had advised her to repeat after me but to my surprise after whispering one she went on to say two. I told her to repeat after me but she argued back saying that 2 comes after one and not 1. We both shared a good laugh and she fell asleep. I don’t know but there was this sense of satisfaction of being a father that I felt, more than what I usually felt when simply providing food on the table. I believe these are so simple things to do with our children but because they are so simple we tend to overlook them. I would like to encourage all parents and caregivers to engage with your children as much as possible, something I learned in the workshop and will forever treasure. The books we produce in this workshop will greatly help families today and in the future to prepare their children for school and life and help bridge the existing gap between parents/caregivers and children.

The new Early Childhood Learning materials developed through the workshop will be tested in selected communities in the Solomon Islands and finalised for mass publication. The learning materials are designed for all young children, parents and caregivers, including those with disabilities.

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