Thousands of young children in TORBA Province will receive dedicated care, nurturing, and education as a result of 85 Parent Support Program (PSP) workshops conducted this year.

More than 1,000 mothers and fathers in TORBA had participated in free training sessions aimed at improving their children’s education.

The Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) delivered the training with the support of the Australian Government funded Vanuatu Education Support Program (VESP). TORBA Province has the second lowest literacy rate for women and men over the age of 15. Parents in TORBA want to help their children improve their skills in talking, listening, reading and writing.

In August 2023, MoET representatives met with early childhood care and education offices, PSP taskforce members, teachers and parents from all the islands in TORBA to identify successes and challenges of the PSP trainings in early childhood education.

The 22 participants, including trainers, chiefs, church representatives, early childhood care and education teachers, principals, primary school teachers and parents, agreed that the PSP provides many benefits to the community by promoting greater parental involvement, higher school attendance and healthier diets for children.

The MoET has been raising awareness of the importance of early learning since 2020. It established the PSP because it recognises that early childhood education sets the foundation for learning throughout a child’s life. The PSP is aligned with the Vanuatu Education and Training Sector Strategy (VETSS) for 2021-2030 which recognises that education and training are vital to guaranteeing a better and innovative future. VETTS is based on the principle that protecting the country’s culture and enhancing ni-Vanuatu’s well-being will ensure the nation reaches its full potential. Inclusive education, governance, partnerships and communications are among VETSS’ key priorities.

The PSP today focuses on five key development areas for babies and young children’s development. They include good health, good food, showing care through actions, safety and security, and encouraging learning opportunities. The PSP delivers training and awareness sessions across the country to share good practices and improve the knowledge of parents and communities.

According to Mrs. Jennifer James, VESP Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Officer, the response from parents following the awareness program has been positive, with many requesting more sessions.

“I am very moved by the feedback from parents and community members. The Parent Support Program helps them to identify the areas where they can do better and how they can do it using what they already have. We keep receiving requests to run more and more awareness sessions with parents and communities,” Mrs. James said, noting that six of the 11 modules still need to be delivered.

According to parents, the sessions are “eye-opening” and enhance their understanding of the role of early learning in a child’s development.

“The sessions are very interesting. We did not realise as parents the importance of early learning for our children’s future. There are many ways we can encourage children’s learning. For example, we can use available resources like coconuts, leaves and stones to teach counting,” said a chief in TORBA.

The MoET and schools across Vanuatu are committed to delivering the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.