Kapalpal school enhances educational opportunities for children in Loanialu
Sunday, 30 November 2014
The early morning mist hasn’t seriously begun to dissipate when the first students begin to appear at the school. For half an hour or so they amble down the ridge where it is broad and the slope gentle. Or if they are coming up from one of the villages down below then they climb the steep, narrow track that takes them to the school.
Sometime around eight o’clock when students and teachers have mostly arrived, the school building is opened and everyone streams inside. After they sing several hymns and been led in prayer by Michael Job, Head Teacher of the school, they break up into their classes which in the 2010 school year, range from prep up to grade 6. So begins a typical day at the Kapalpal Christadelphian Primary School.
Kapalpal first opened its doors in February 2009. For most of the students, the new school was incredibly different from their old one.
The old school is about a kilometre down the ridge. It consists of three small “local” huts arranged in a narrow clump. The huts are framed by the cut-down trunks and limbs of small trees and covered with thatch and sections of rusty iron.
At best they could be described as decrepit. With earth floors they are dirty as well as dark and usually damp. The continual dampness ruins the books, notebooks and other teaching materials making them unusable in a very short time.
For desks, students sat on wooden blocks or on rough timber planks mounted on locally-made besser blocks. Other planks served as their table tops.
In contrast, the new school’s two buildings are cladded with colourbond steel and have lots of windows to allow in fresh air and sunlight.
The villagers refer to Kapalpal’s buildings as “permanent”. By this they mean the buildings should still be around in 20 to 30 years. (Both buildings are of sturdy construction and have been designed to withstand the earthquakes and cyclones that occur in Vanuatu.)
“Permanent” conveys an essential difference between the construction of these buildings and the local ones which typically will last around 3 years.
At Kapalpal, sturdy pressed-timber tables and bench seats provide flat, level, steady platforms for the students to sit and write on.
A happy consequence of the dry, furnished, well-resourced learning environment is high student attendance levels. “We have 205 students this year,” said Michael Job, Kapalpal’s Head Teacher. “That’s 3 to 4 times more than the number of students we ever had at the other school.”
It is also a factor in keeping the children in school.
“Last year, of the 206 students enrolled, just 6 stopped coming during the year,” Michael commented.
When you are told that the typical drop-out rate for primary schoolers on Tanna is estimated to be around 30%, you begin to understand the difference a school like this can make.
Head Teacher Michael Job
Watch a short video clip of the school