10th June, 2021 This month, the Ministry of Education and Training will begin providing Tongan educators, parents, and carers with tools to ensure children do not miss out on an education due to the pandemic or natural disaster. In partnership with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Inclusive Education, and Save the Children, the Ministry of Education and Training will be working to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 or natural disaster on Tonga’s education sector, by implementing programs that will include flexible and distant learning guides for students, parents, and carers, and prepared audio and video lessons in line with the current syllabus.
Funded by the Global Partnership for Education, the Tonga Accelerated Resilience Program (TARP) will be supported through the technical expertise and technologies developed by Save the Children Australia’s social enterprise, Inclusive Education.
“This program, aimed at Tongan children enrolled in early childhood education, inclusive education, and primary schools, will secure their access to ongoing and quality education should COVID-19 or natural disaster prevent them from going to school,” said the Hon. Hu’akavameiliku, Minister for Education and Training. "We have seen that in countries where COVID-19 is rife, the only way to guarantee children’s education is by embedding properly established mechanisms for home-based learning. We are putting this program in place now to safeguard our children’s future."
“We are thankful that measures the Government of Tonga has put in place has meant that Tonga remains free from COVID-19. But if this changes, there is a risk we would be forced to close 181 schools.”
Ms ‘Ungo’unga is one of the 80 teacher ambassadors selected across Tonga to be trained in and champion distance education in Tonga. In addition to capacity building and mentoring, she has also been provided access to a laptop. Ms ‘Ungo’unga said:
“[These laptops] will help to send and receive the children’s study materials on a daily basis. It is crucial for children to get to know and familiarise [themselves] on how to work and study at home. It will have a huge positive impact in the lives of many due to the global disease of COVID-19. Thank you very much for providing these to develop the study here in Tonga.”
The Ministry of Education and Training worked together with Inclusive Education during 2020 to learn about the skills that Tongan teachers have in using digital media and education technologies and to develop plans for teacher capacity building in this area. With the funding now secured, teachers will have additional support:
“Alongside paper-based materials, radio and SMS, teachers will also have the opportunity to learn to use computers and mobile phones in new ways, creating digital audio, video, and educational content to support learning that children can do at home if they are not able to go to school due to COVID-19.” said Steve Watt, Managing Director for Inclusive Education. “We really believe in the role of teachers and we’re excited to see what our focus on teacher capacity building combined with technologies we’ve adapted will do to deliver digital inclusion of children in Tonga.”
Save the Children has been working across Pacific for around 35 years, helping governments and local organisations provide support in education, child protection, water sanitation and hygiene, livelihoods, and emergency relief. The TARP project marks the first time Save the Children has supported programs in Tonga, and the aid agency is looking forward to the opportunity to share their expertise and learn from the Tongan Ministry of Education and Training.
“Save the Children is thrilled that we can offer help to strengthen kids’ access to education in Tonga,” Gerry Dyer, Save the Children’s Pacific Regional Director, said yesterday. “Our teams across the world are committed to making sure this global pandemic does not stand between children and their right to education.”
“Save the Children is incredibly proud of our work in countries like Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands where we have been working to shield children from the impacts of COVID-19.” Mr Dyer continued, “This opportunity to work with the Ministry of Education and Training to protect even more children in the Pacific is very exciting. Save the Children is looking forward to working with the Government of Tonga now and in the future.”
The TARP project will reach more than 2,000 Early Childhood and Inclusive Education students, and an additional 14,000 primary students if COVID-19 does come to Tonga and the use of home-learning materials are activated. It is envisioned that if the materials and technologies that will be distributed throughout the program will be used in the event of a disaster.
For further information about the Ministry’s Media Release, please contact:
Ministry of Education and Training, Phone: 7400919.