By PISAI GUMAR
READING books and comprehending meaning of ideas (concepts) embedded in words add value to the success of a student’s general knowledge. Not only are books important for quality of education but good teachers, learning facilities, teaching resources, accommodation and equipment are also basic essentials.
There is also parental care and obligations that help ensure their children attend classes daily and are on par with what their children are learning.
The aspiration of education in the country to implement Standard Based Education (SBE, meaning that English is the only language taught and spoken from elementary to upper primary, high and secondary schools in districts still leaves much to be desired.
How can all schools throughout the country be on par when there is much disparity between schools?
Unlike their counterparts in major towns and cities, most school children in rural areas mostly speak their mother tongue or in Tok Pisin.
They find the transition from those languages to English is sometimes a big leap that many cannot quickly overcome.
One way for them to learn English faster is through reading books. But their schools don’t have a library, let alone reading books from which they can see words and get the hang of grammatical structures and eventually expand their vocabulary. Libraries are nerve centers of any school, college or university. Many organisations and individuals have tried their best to bring books and libraries to schools and institutions around the country.
One woman who is trying to help bring books to schools in Morobe is Joyce Orere. A graduate of Madang Teachers College, the primary school teacher specializes in early childhood development. She spent 15 years teaching with International Education Agency (IEA), specializing in language and literature.
Following years of teaching, one thing that struck her is the lack of libraries and books in rural elementary and primary schools.
This drove her to establish the Rural Volunteer Library Services (RVLS) in 2011. She went out on a limb to start the voluntary organization then but has gradually attracted the attention of several MPs and organisations over the past six years who have with either funding and or books.
“It saddens me when our education system aspires to implement SBE while there are no library buildings without the required reading books to encourage students in rural schools to speak the English language” Orere said.
Orere recalled a sad moment that challenged her to initiate RVLS when she visited one of the elementary school in Nawaeb district. There, a teacher was trying to teach a subject but the students had difficulty grasping what she was saying because they had no books to follow through
“My aim is to set standards and quality by setting up libraries, donate books and encourage pupil’s reading-comprehension. I want students in rural areas to read more books,” she said.
Orere teaches library skills, reading and comprehension strategies and sets up libraries and at the same time makes sure teachers know how to manage these libraries.
One district in Morobe that has realized the crucial need for books in children’s learning is Huon Gulf. It’s education manager Moses Wanga and MP Ross Seymour, through the district development authority, supported RVLS with a donation of K100,000 last year. This funding was for the setting up of libraries and training of teachers in three of its LLG’s-Morobe, Salamaua and Wampar.
A total of 59 primary schools and 109 elementary schools fall under this assistance.
RVLS has facilitated four training sessions each in Morobe post, Salamaua and Wampar which was attended by 300 teachers from primary and elementary schools.
Seymour confirmed that RVLS was given another K100,000 this year to continue the teacher training sessions. This money will also be used by RVSL to purchase books and for the RVSL team to visit schools that have received books to see their progress.
Morobe Governor Kelly Naru last month donated a vehicle to help RVLS carry out its work.
Schools which RVLS has so far donated books to include Toyare 50, Lagui 21, Buakap 60, Zifasing 60, Mafanazo 20, Tanam Seventh Day Adventist 15 and Tararan 60 cartons of library books containing a wide range of subject topics.
Other districts in the province that have requested the help of RVLS include, Kabwum, Markham, Lae, Finschhafen and Tewae-Siassi.
In Lae itself, St. Mary’s Primary School has received 30 cartons of books from the self-help group.
“Library books are vital for children’s learning but sadly not all rural schools in districts have library and books that is why many rural students find it difficult to read, write and comprehend English concepts aptly” Orere said.
The RVLS motto is ; “setting standards and quality putting students first in nurturing reading-comprehension skills in rural students”.
Orere said more cooperation is needed from teachers.
“There is no use walking rural areas to set up libraries while head teachers and teachers are not encouraging students to use (access) the libraries daily to read books to improve their aptitude in English language, understand basic words and meanings, concepts (ideas), grammatical structures and broaden their vocabulary” she said.
RVLS has 15 volunteers- three skilled librarians, two primary school teachers and 10 assistants.
Orere also begin to set up Home Libraries in settlements which have books that unemployed people can access in their spare time.
By PISAI GUMAR