Words by Caleb Maehaunua Pollard
Art by Kelvin Kelo Neleta
The International Day of Education 2023 was celebrated on January 24th 2023 by the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development with donor partners on the theme ‘invest in people, prioritise education’ (Star, 2023).
As I came across this article and its theme, I one-hundred percent agreed with it. Education is of great importance because it is a catalyst for development. Education provides a pathway out of poverty and importantly it gives meaning to life. When you have been educated, having a university degree increases the chances of a good-paying job but also opens up many doors for your career.
But on the other hand, If we talk about the reality of education here in the Solomon Islands, from my point of view, what is currently happening is the opposite. I would describe the current situation as ‘to deprive people, forget education’.
Education is a human right and sadly, I have seen this right being taken away by decision-makers. In 2021, the outbreak of COVID-19 entered the shores of the Solomon Islands and this resulted in the closure of services such as those in education. Schools were closed for a period of 15 weeks in which young people had little to no education during that time. Later that year, it was announced that schools would be cut short in preparation for the South Pacific Games. Schools would finish by October since the schools are being used as venues for the South Pacific Games and thus are in need of preparation (Star, 2023). This year, 2023, schools were meant to begin the academic year in late January but because of some preparations for the Solomon Games and late exam results, some schools actually started weeks later or haven’t even started as I write this. Education is a human right and based on these situations, it seems to me that the education of our young people is not being prioritised and valued. If we have a generation that is uneducated, we are depriving our nation.
If we are to prioritise education then the economics of education must be prioritised. Because of globalisation, the education of the Solomon Islands is being affected because of unfair markets, trade imbalances, infrastructures and high unemployment. Most parents send their children to school to ensure they are able to complete their education and get a well-paid job but what we have now is a great number of university graduates who are searching for employment. The majority of the population of the Solomon Islands is youth, and if nothing is done about the employment of youth then I wouldn’t be surprised if riots become a common thing every 10 years or even worse (Short, 2019). Unemployment of youth is a serious issue as this is depriving our nation as well.
Even though our nation faces many challenges and difficulties, I believe we can still make a difference. Instead of investing in people as the theme suggests, I am convinced that we need to invest in technology and entrepreneurship. In this fast-changing society, technology can advance the education of our young people and also encourage them to be creative and critical thinkers. Another positive is that technology can have a wide reach in which young people can learn more about the world and how it works. Even if a teacher is absent, a student is still able to learn through technology. Technology can provide a pathway for the betterment of education in which young people can be empowered.
Therefore, let us prioritise people but also technology and infrastructure. There is no one size fits all solution. We must continue to strive and support any pathway that helps our young people to realise their potential whether it be sports, music, entrepreneurship, creative arts and so forth. As such, education must be valued.