Communications and transport a battle for West Santo schools

School officials say the education of students in the North West and West Coast areas of Santo is being hampered by poor and costly services due to their remoteness from the island’s capital Luganville.

Deputy Principal for Menevula Centre School in North West Santo, Edwin Boe, says the high costs involved in travelling from their area to Luganville and frequent breakdowns in mobile phone services are putting schools in the North West and West Coast of Santo at a disadvantage.

Mr Boe says his Menevula Centre School spends its entire annual schools grant funds just on transporting school materials and resources from Luganville.

“Other schools in Santo that are located closer to Luganville town, I believe would be able to make better use of the annual schools grants, while in comparison Menevula Centre School uses up its entire government grant on the transportation costs for school materials,” Mr Boe said.

“A trip by boat from Menevula in North West Santo to Tassiriki in South West Santo, will cost us around 35 to 38,000 vatu for just a one-way trip. We must then add on the land transport trip from Tassiriki to Luganville town which costs around VT10,000 for a one-way trip.

“If we go from our school to Matantas in the North of Santo, it will cost us around 30 to 35,000 vatu by boat and then for land transport from Matantas to Luganville, it costs us an additional VT8,000.”

The Deputy School Principal says schools and people living in North West and West Coast Santo are also facing huge challenges because of telecommunication breakdowns.

“Sometimes there are communication breakdowns that make it very difficult for the school to contact parents or for parents to call into the school,” he said.

“It is especially difficult if the school needs to contact parents or education authorities on urgent matters in the school.”

Mr Boe says the telecommunication companies, Vodafone and Digicel, need to make urgent improvements on the cell phone towers that service the region.

Despite the challenges, Mr Boe says the school is looking forward to completing some of its major projects in early 2021.

“The school is currently building a school library for Menevula Primary and a toilet block. It is also constructing a multi-classroom for the secondary students,” he said.

“We hope to complete the construction of the buildings as of early next year so the students can start using them.”

He says it will be the first time Menevula Centre School will have a designated library.

“We have never had a proper library building. We have reading books but we have been storing them at the back of the classrooms or in the school office,” he said.

“Our students have been finding reading difficult and so we decided to improve their learning, it is a priority to have a school library to get them reading more.”

The Deputy Principal says, the school is aware of Vanuatu’s first positive COVID-19 case in Port Vila and it continues to practice social distancing and proper handwashing.

Menevula Centre School has enrolled more than 200 primary and secondary students this year.

Mr Boe says he is hopeful the students, especially the Year Ten students who will sit the national examination, will pull off some good results.

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