Teachers volunteer for remote island community

A sitting group discussion with 6 students and 2 tutors
Teachers work with students at Konggukolo Secondary School

English language teachers Maria Greenaway, Sandra Laight and Andrew Williams credit a famous proverb for guiding their approach to mentoring teachers at a remote school in the Solomon Islands.

"We see the approach as like teaching people how to fish rather than giving them fish. Investing in teacher development is a sustainable way to help the school," said Ms Laight.

The three Sydney-based UTS Insearch English language teachers returned to Konggukolo Secondary School on New Georgia Island to continue their volunteer work with teachers from the island, many of whom have no formal teaching qualifications and little access to professional development.

Ms Laight has witnessed the growth of numbers and enthusiasm in the students, teachers and surrounding communities over several years, and she returns to the school each year because she knows it is making a difference.

"I can see positive changes happening on each return visit, from the market gardens to the introduction of water tanks and night-lighting; a whole community is growing around this school and you can see it in the faces of students and their parents – someone believes in them, and they believe in themselves too," Ms Laight said.

Konggukolo Secondary School is a boarding school that was built on an old logging camp situated on the top of a hill. It is only accessible via a six kilometre mud track, with supplies shipped to the Marovo lagoon and stored in shipping containers until they can be ferried up to the school via a single four-wheel drive.

The upcoming visit will be Ms Greenaway's and Mr Williams's second trip to Konggukolo Secondary School running a teacher training program for nine teachers from the school, and an additional eight teachers from surrounding schools. Ms Laight is returning for her third visit, which involves teaching English to up to 70 students, assisting them with grammar and writing skills.

All three teachers find it rewarding to see the school develop and the ripple effect it has on the whole community.

"It's wonderful to see the kids grow, the program grow and the community grow. I am always sad to leave but grateful that I will return again the following year," Ms Laight said. 

"This program means the world to me. I am so happy to be able to teach there each year and rekindle friendships; it's a wonderful reunion to come together again."

The teacher training at Konggukolo Secondary School is made possible by ELT teachers volunteering their time and is supported by UTS Insearch, the pathway for UTS.

More information about Konggukolo Secondary School can be found on the school's website.