SOLOMON ISLANDS: Salesian Missionaries Help Youth Learn a Trade at Don Bosco Technical Institute
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries in Honiara, the capital city of the Solomon Islands, operate the Don Bosco Technical Institute Henderson and the Laura Vicuna Hostel, a residence for female students at the institute. The institute and hostel work in collaboration to provide education and technical skills training to poor youth to prepare them for employment.
The Don Bosco Technical Institute has been providing education and skills training in the electrical, automotive, carpentry and machine fitting maintenance trades as well as life skills training and employment assistance for more 200 students over the last 13 years. Within the last year, the institute has added new workshop materials and built a basketball court for recreational activities and six apartments for staff members who require accommodation on campus.
While the majority of students are male, the institute has been working to increase enrollment of female students by encouraging them to take courses in more typically male-dominated trades as well as providing opportunities for those who previously left school due to marriage or pregnancy. Currently, most young women begin at the institute with life skills training followed by courses in teaching and nursing.
The Laura Vicuna Hostel, operated by Salesian Sisters, provides safe accommodation for 36 young women from economically deprived backgrounds who have come to Honiara to attend university. The hostel is at maximum capacity and has a growing waiting list of young women who wish to live at the hostel and study and at the Don Bosco Technical Institute.
Responding to local need and numerous requests, the Salesian Sisters have been providing a five-month home economics course for women from disadvantaged backgrounds who have had very little formal education. In the Solomon Islands, only 20 percent of female adults are literate. The home economics program offers classes in basic literacy, math, computing, dress making, cooking and health awareness. Students learn practical skills in sewing and textiles as well as home and small business management. Many choose additional classes in music, basket weaving and gardening as well.
In 2013, the technical school introduced new courses in the basics of hospitality and tourism for young men and women seeking employment in hotel management and the hospitality industry. The school’s curriculum continues to expand based on the employment needs of the local community and student interest.
“Most of the students at the Don Bosco Technical Institute are from poor families and many have dropped out of traditional schools,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “There, they are getting a second chance by learning skills that will enable them to find employment to support themselves and their families.”
The Solomon Islands is one of the poorest countries in the Pacific region with almost 40 percent of the population living in poverty, according to UNICEF. The majority of the country’s children live in remote areas where access to education is limited. Close to 25 percent of youth never attend primary school with 30 percent of those attending never completing. Limited access to education and an adult literacy rate of less than 35 percent perpetuates the cycle of poverty from generation to generation.
Eighty-four percent of Solomon Islanders reside in rural areas and rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods. Limited access to health and other social services and a lack of transportation, electricity and telecommunications infrastructure compounds already challenging economic conditions. With the majority of youth living in remote areas with limited educational and employment prospects, overcoming poverty is an uphill battle.
Salesian Missions Australia Province Newsletter – Year in Review 2015
UNICEF – Solomon Islands