Solomon Islands
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A program to officially close the Iumi Tugeda Helpem Solomon Islands Def Comuniti project was held over the weekend at San Isidoro Care Center in Northwest Guadalcanal.

Launched in September last year, the project was delivered by the Catholic Education Office in partnership with the Australian Catholic University (ACU) and aims at improving access to quality education for deaf children across Solomon Islands.

16 sign language trainers were awarded certificates of Teaching and Learning from ACU, a qualification that is recognized by the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development.

Sign Language Trainers posing for photo with their cake.

Speaking to SIBC, Deputy Secretary Corporate services within the Ministry of Education, Coldrine Kolae congratulated the trainers for being part of the project and for acquiring such qualification.

“This was a great opportunity for them as they are now recognized qualified trainers and will be able provide trainings not only at the community level but also at the National level.

I believe there are ministries and organizations that will require their set of skills, so this would mean more job opportunities for them. So, thank you to those who have supported them in getting this far.”

Through the course of the project, the trainers comprising of both hearing and deaf, travelled to Guadalcanal, Malaita and Western Province to deliver the sign language trainings.

A total of 277 community members and 221 school children were trained in communities across these provinces.

Group photo

Associate Professor of Education at ANU, Mellita Jones also commended the trainers for having the confidence to deliver the trainings.

“I am so proud of them, they have worked so hard. You know the hard thing is not learning sign language, the hard thing was building confidence to be able to go and teach everybody in these different communities.

They have been so brave and committed to both learning how to do the sign as well as learning how to teach other people.”

Meanwhile, Sign language trainer, Brendon Leslie said, the response from communities to the trainings was positive as most were eager to learn.

“ The community I went to had two people with hearing impairment living there and it was amazing to see that the 60 people I trained there wanted to learn sign language so they can communicate with these two.

I think it is also important for us who can hear to learn how to do sign language as it helps to create conversations with the deaf, and from my experience deaf people  appreciate it when we communicate with them this way as it shows that we recognize their presence in the society.”

The Solomon Islands National Statistics Office reports that 6.1% of the population is functionally impacted by some form of hearing impairment.

Certified Sign Language Trainers posing for a photo.

Although there are policies such as the Solomon Islands National Inclusive Education Policy, ensuring those with disabilities have access to basic education continues to be a challenge for the country.

The San Isidro Care Centre is one of the few institutions in the country that provide life skills and sign language to students with hearing impairment.

Through the The Iumi Together Helpem Solomon Islands Def Community Project, 1,000 sign language books  were produced and 300 posters  were distributed to schools clinics and churches as part of raising awareness for basic sign language.

The project was supported by the Solomon Islands Education Sector Support Program (ESSP), a partnership between the governments of Solomon Islands, Australia and New Zealand.