In 2014 we started helping Samoan children significantly behind in their literacy when we partnered with the Samoan Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture. A pilot programme in two high schools and two primary schools was implemented, with our role being to train teachers in the use of the Steps literacy programme and provide the schools with computers. The Steps literacy programme, developed by The Learning Staircase in Christchurch, is used in over 800 New Zealand schools and is kindly provided by The Learning Staircase free to Tongan and Samoan schools. This multi-sensory programme is carefully research based and combines computer activities and complementary workbooks.
Our Samoan pilot programme was successful and we continue to support a primary school there; however, our main focus is now in Tonga. We began work there in 2016 partnering with an NGO in the northern island of Vava’u, again acting in a training and hardware provision role. Success there led to the current partnership with Tonga’s Ministry of Education and Training, headquartered in Neiafu on the main island of Tongatapu. Our role is to train teachers to use Steps, build the capacity of Ministry staff to be trainers in the use of Steps and provide laptops to primary schools.
For more detailed information in previous reports see the posts below, including “Older posts”.
As many of you know, with Auckland Unitarian Church support, I initiated a pilot programme to help dyslexic children in Samoa in a joint programme with their Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture. While there I came across information on Samoa’s nonviolent struggle for independence from New Zealand. Back in New Zealand, I began to read up on the subject and in asking friends and family about it, found few knew much about it and some nothing at all. I find it a very sad but interesting story, that certainly deserves knowing about, and thought I would share a bit of it with you this morning.
Although Tonga fortunately has no community transmission of COVID-19, travel there is not possible at present and thus the pandemic has seriously affected our ability to train teachers in the use of Steps as well as supply laptops to schools.
Our main effort has shifted to attempting to collect from New Zealand companies laptops which are up for replacement. We will then provide them to Tongan primary schools as soon as we can. In addition, fund raising continues in order to purchase new laptops for the schools.
We look forward to being able to return to Tonga and assist their Ministry staff to expand this valuable and well received Steps literacy programme, especially helpful for dyslexic children.
Brenda reports that in the Food Parcel Assistance for Glen Taylor School (GTS) during lockdown, in which much of the congregation was involved, a total of $2,370 was donated by us which meant many families in their local communities were helped. The principal of GTS and Clay put together a Sunday Zoom service on 17th May which was much enjoyed.
When asked how we could best help advocate for GTS, the principal suggested we could help ensure the promised upgrade to the school property actually occurs, support an increase in wages for Teacher Aids, and continue to press for an end to child poverty and a reduction in inequality.
Our Peace and Social Justice
(PSJ) sponsorship of the Glen Taylor School, which enables their
participation in the Duffy Books in Homes programme, continues to
reward us with great satisfaction. The children are thriving with the
supplied books. PSJ representatives will attend a role model assembly
at the school in March and I’m sure Brenda and Gary will provide
more details on that after we’ve been.
What does Amnesty do? We investigate and expose the facts, whenever and wherever abuses happen. We lobby governments, and other powerful groups such as companies. Making sure they keep their promises and respect international law. Each month we write letters in response to Rapid Action requests from Amnesty International. The October letter is written for the Nicaraguan student leaders and others who had been arrested and detained for exercising their rights to peaceful protest about the Nicaraguan authorities increasingly repressive strategies including promoting a Shoot to Kill Strategy and Repression of Social Protest in Nicaragua. One of the students arrested is a young medical student and cousin of a New Zealand citizen.
Duffy Books in Homes
Gary, Paul, Angela and Brenda were very happy to attend the Duffy Role Model’s Assembly at Glen Taylor School last month. Thanks to the PSJ Group and the Church’s congregation, our Church is able to provide 50% of the cost of new books distributed to the pupils at Glen Taylor School on an ongoing basis. The books given are ones that the children choose, and take home to keep. Quite a moving thought isn’t it, helping kids build up a Library of their own at home! The students were a delight and the staff welcoming. We look forward to building a closer relationship with the school’s management and students, with possible assistance in other areas. We hope to be able to bring some ideas for participation to the congregation early next year.
Pacific Dyslexia Programme
Paul reports that the Tongan dyslexia project ran well this year and has now finished as students are busy after school studying for their end of year exams. The tutors from the Library Trust we work with are looking forward to next year. In Samoa the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture have restarted the dyslexia project on a small scale and have asked about our idea of developing a Samoan version of the Steps dyslexia programme.