Vanuatu’s tropical islands are renowned for their diversity, with nearly 115 distinct cultures and languages. The International Year of Languages has been declared for 2008. Now a group, from the 83 islands of Vanuatu, have met to convert their oral language to the written word.
Port Vila hosted 23 adult students from 12 different language groups, all keen to discover the power of writing in their own language. Slowly, language barriers were broken down, as these shy people began to communicate with each other.
Many Ni-Vanuatu people are multi-lingual, speaking French, Bislama, English and their home language. For 30 years or more the adults have used an oral language, with primary schooling providing no writing experiences in their own language.
Cultural ceremonies and stories discussed under the banyan tree and over the cooking pots, have seen customs and tales of ancestors passed from generation to generation.
From as far as the remote, northern islands of Motolava and the southern Tanna, these adult students have arrived in the capital. Jesse, a mother of three children, explained in broken English, “For most of us it is the first time we have left our island homes, flown in a plane, or crossed the ocean”.
An extract of literature was translated into their language. Faces glowed with pride at seeing their language written for the first time. “Communication was at the heart of the workshop,” explained a spokesperson for the project.
“The translation of important information to the Mother tongue has highlighted this. When the students return to their island homes, they will share their knowledge and show their community the power of the written word. The community will move forward in leaps and bounds in this exciting new adventure.”
Free education is not available in Vanuatu. Everyone must pay school fees as the government provides limited resources. For most families the fee is beyond the small incomes of villagers, living in a ‘no-cash-economy’.
The horrific consequence is:
o Only 55.8% of Vanuatu kids will get to grade 6;
o Of those only 18.2% will go to high school;
o 26% will never go to school.
Many parents are not able to read or write in any language.
Vanuatu desperately needs help to educate the next generation. Although rich in knowledge about their land, culture and traditions, the Happiest Country on Earth (voted in 2006) needs help to educate the young generation, if the country is to move forward. As a Lesser Developed country, donor funding is seen pouring into the country, but education is low on the priority list.
YouMe Support Foundation, a Child Trust Fund, is dedicated to giving these children a high school education grants for the children of the outer islands of Vanuatu. You can help, donate and make a difference in the lives of these people and you might win the boutique resort. Visit our Website for your Blue Moon Opportunity.