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Women, Development and Empowerment: A Pacific Feminist Perspective


page 34


The Solomon Islands has six kindergarten schools. One is run by the YWCA, one by another women's organisation, two run by women, one by a man who came to the YWCA for training, and one run by the Holy Cross Church.

The YWCA kindergarten started in 1975. Its building was in the YWCA area. The women decided, as part of the services to the community, to buy the building. With a loan from the bank and additional funding from an organisation in Holland, the loan has been paid off. The kindergarten now belongs to the women. Children of all races, from 2+ to 7 years of age, are taken in. Four women were working at the kindergarten - it is now increased to 7. The women are not trained. There is only one trained teacher, while the others are helpers. But the YWCA, as a feminst organisation, needed to try to upgrade these women's learning. The helpers now attend a course throughout the year and during the holidays the YWCA sends them to kindergarten workshops. It also tried to encourage the women to attend the University of the South Pacific and to speak on the satellite (the University of the South Pacific has a satellite link-up). The satellite enables extensions classes to be held throughout the South Pacific university region and can link women to other kindergarten organisations in the Pacific. The YWCA tried to register the women in extension courses of the USP; one problem was that none of the women had secondary school education.

The YWCA kindergarten has made a contribution to the community. It was the best form of service that could be given to the community because the population was growing at approximately four and a half per cent and the Solomon Islands needed more kindergartens. Such a service needed to be provided. Another reason for page 35 getting children into kindergartens was that more mothers were going out to work. The kindergarten was in a way serving as a child care centre.

Fees were $1.00 a day and had been that for the last six years. In 1986, when the committee decided to charge $1.50 in line with other kindergartens, there was a loud outcry. Its teachers were also however demanding higher pay.

This project's contribution to women's development was that women could now go out to work, because the kindergarten took care of their children. Mothers were employed and thus earning their own money, which built up their confidence. Secondly, the kindergarten teachers were getting training through workshops and courses, and teachers had also organised themselves into an association. All teachers in the Solomon Islands come together once a year, funded by the University of the South Pacific or a similar body.

Other kindergartens were springing up in the islands but the headteachers could not find the time or money to visit these kindergartens. Each time, money had to be sought from the University of the South Pacific, Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific (FSP) or other organisations.

Due to the YWCA kindergarten, women had come together and had a common cause. The children who went to pre-school did better in primary schools than those who had never been to pre-school. By then they could count and knew their ABC. The YWCA kindergarten project also gave women a chance to get together with the other women and compare notes. In the kindergarten committees women could exchange views - in English and in Pidgin. There was a YWCA branch kindergarten in Western Province.

Questions and Answers

Q: Do the children get pre-school education at 5 years of age?

A: Children are taken from two and half to seven years. From 7 years, page 36 they go to primary school. If there is some difficulty, the kindergarten also takes children up to 9 years.

Q: Were the schools designed to meet the needs of the children, or were they designed as day care centres to assist women in their responsibilities to their families while they are employed?

A: The YWCA says it is not a day care centre. The children taken in at 3 are toilet trained, etc. It is a pre-school.

Black and white photograph of children making leis.