Since March 2014, six young engineers from Downer have formed links in a chain, each working for three months with the Solomon Islands Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development (MEHRD).
The Ministry is working towards fulfilling the Solomon Islands Government’s goal of universal primary school enrolment, building new classrooms to meet demand and in some cases putting in water reticulation systems for schools.
After the Honiara flash floods in March 2014, many schools required further repair, and were put into service as emergency shelters. Downer’s young engineers worked to assess the damage to already rundown facilities.
The Solomons has one of the fastest growing populations in the region, with 40% of its citizens under 15 years of age. Just 17% of the population is fully literate.
Engineer Grainne Blount says the work she and her predecessors have done with their colleagues at MEHRD is bearing fruit:
“We’re building 20 libraries in Honiara; during my assignment we completed about six, and had about six more under construction. Understanding how little literacy there is, it’s really significant being able to deliver a library and what that means for a community.”
Fraser Sherson, Grainne’s successor, says a further 12 libraries were completed during his assignment, which ended in September 2015, and he also worked on refurbishing the Ministry and supplying water reticulation systems in schools.
Henson Makoani, Acting Director of the Asset Management Division of MEHRD, says:
“It has been a learning opportunity where skills and knowledge are shared between local staff and VSA volunteers, which contributed to the improved effectiveness of our staff. Our staff are gaining confidence and are now improving on what they’re doing.”
“I attended an opening ceremony of a library at a school. The kids were crowded round outside, peering in the library windows. When we let them in they were screaming with excitement. It was really special, it made me feel that I was helping to make real change for those kids.”