Out-of-school children getting a second chance at education

Ten-year-old Maneshella Joe, happy to be back in school. ©UNICEF PNG/Chambers/2017

JIWAKA, Papua New Guinea, June 2017 — When her mother died in early 2015, Maneshella Joe was devastated and dropped out of school.

“I was eight years old then and in grade two when my mother died. My father had left us some years earlier when he lost his job and we haven’t seen him since. People say he is in Port Moresby but I don’t know. I left school because there was no one to care for me after I lost my mother and I had no money to continue school,” Maneshella shyly explains.

With no hope of getting back to school, Maneshella reluctantly accepted a village life in Chimbu Province where she lived with her grandparents for the rest of the year. She envied her two older siblings who were still in school and often thought about going back to school.

A second chance to get an education

Her breakthrough came in 2016 when she got an opportunity to reenter the education system by enrolling in the Jiwaka Literacy Center (JLC) which, with UNICEFs support, was offering bridging courses for out-of-school children.

Although a private initiative, the JLC is registered under the Jiwaka Provincial Government’s Education Division. It is a non-formal school and the first of its kind in Jiwaka Province providing out-of-school children an opportunity to continue their education and eventually get back into formal schooling.

Initially, the Jiwaka Provincial Government supported the Centre through the construction of a double class room that would accommodate the growing number of adults and children who are keen to get an education.

Maneshella is in a classroom with 37 other pupils whose ages range from 10 years to 18 years. The class is divided into four grades starting from grade 3 to grade 6. There is only one teacher teaching the entire class.

Maneshella and a classmate get their work checked by their teacher. ©UNICEF PNG/Chambers/2017

“We have one trained teacher for the out-of-school children with very limited skills on multi-grade teaching. We need help for this teacher to be trained properly as a multi-grade teacher. UNICEF helped us to separate these children from the adults and that is good. Now we need more trained teachers to teach these children to catch up with their peers so they can fit back into a proper school later,” Georgina, the school principal, explains.

“When we established this school our intention was to cater for illiterate adults. We were surprised to see young children who had been out of the education system enrolling in our school. Initially the adults and young children were put together in the same class room and they were taught with the same learning materials. However, with UNICEFs support and under the leadership of the Jiwaka Provincial Education Division, we have now separated the children from the adults into separate classrooms and they are taught separately”, Georgina adds.

Out of school children happy to be back in the classroom. ©UNICEF PNG/Chambers/2017

Entry into formal education

Separating the children from adults is essential because the curriculum and teaching practices adopted for the children is to get them eventually mainstreamed back into formal schooling, whereas the adults who are enrolled is specifically in the literacy programme and not a curriculum for them to enter formal schooling.

JLC has established linkages with nearby formal schools who, will accept children from JLC when they are ready to be mainstreamed back into formal education.

Out of School Children Initiative — OOSCI

The Government’s Universal Basic Education Plan (2010–19) of the National Department of Education (NDoE) suggests that an estimated 600,000 school aged children are out of school in PNG. To address this, the NDoE, with UNICEFs support, launched an Out of School Children Initiative (OOSCI) in 2016 to develop a national profile of out-of-school children.

OOSCI is a partnership between UNICEF and UNESCO Institute for Statistics with support the Global Partnership for Education that works with more than 50 countries to ensure that children have access to a good education, are ready to enter the classroom at the right age and are equipped to complete primary school. The initiative’s goal is to reduce the number of children who are out of school around the world.

At the local level, OOSCI supports local initiatives such as JLC to demonstrate flexible learning opportunities that will enable these children to be mainstreamed into formal schools when they are ready.

The first out-of-school class at the Jiwaka Literacy Centre. ©UNICEF PNG/Chambers/2017

In Papua New Guinea, substantial work has been carried out since the initiative was launched. Data and information collection has been completed and these are now being analysed to develop comprehensive profiles of excluded children. These will then link the profiles to barriers that lead to exclusion and eventually, identify, promote and implement sound policies that will address exclusion.

For Maneshella, the classroom situation does not bother her. “I’m very happy to be back in school. All of us here have been given another chance at education and we will continue no matter what,” she adds with determination.

Maneshella (center) with two of her best friends. ©UNICEF PNG/Chambers/2017