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Oxfam funds rural education in Vanuatu

Monday 17 Dec 2012 5:01 p.m.

Education is every child's right in New Zealand, but in the developing nation of Vanuatu, schooling beyond primary is a rare luxury.

On the island of Tanna, with a population of 20,000, schooling is scarce and opportunities for employment even more so.

But Oxfam New Zealand has made it possible for some young locals to reach their potential outside the classroom.

One village, Lume, congregated in pride recently to celebrate the graduation of 27 of their people. It was a rare event in a country where education is cut short after primary school for 70 percent of the population. They are squeezed out by expensive fees for secondary education.

Director of the Rural Training Centres Association, Kathy Solomon, says it leaves many with little opportunity.

“For the majority that’s it; they'll just be roaming around,” she says. “And a lot of them now in the rural areas are involved with […] smoking drugs and kava drinking and that's it.”

But for a lucky few, Rural Training Centres provide practical skills for free, and it’s made possible by money raised by Oxfam New Zealand.

“The majority of our people can’t go to school. They can’t read or write but they can use their hands,” says Ms Solomon.

A couple of kilometres up the road from Lume, Michael Beau is turning his hand to the land, studying agriculture in the Napil Rural Training Centre.

Partially deaf, the 18-year-old struggled at school until he was 12, but has now learned to plant kava, taro, and vegetables, and is carving out a sustainable way of life for him and his family.

His father says he’s happy about skills his son has picked up.

“I think when he comes here, I glad to the working he has done at school,” says Beau Noklam.

There are now 50 Rural Training Centres throughout Vanuatu, and the skills that they teach range from home economics and agriculture, to legal rights and mechanics.

For families whose children attend, finances can be tight so payment is accepted in the form of chickens, small chores or even kava.

The parents of Lume brought their thanks to the graduation ceremony, where the students were awarded a certificate and a tool of their trade.

Watch the video for Sacha McNeil’s full report.

3 News

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