Earlier in the week we travelled to Suva (the capital of Fiji) and met some officials from the Ministry of Education. The meeting gave me some ideas on where their ICT agenda was heading. Today, we got a chance to visit some schools in the area – thanks to the efforts of Mr Wise. We visited schools that had libraries and computers. In libraries – we saw books that were published the 1960’s. There was a definite need for some cataloguing – the challenge for users would be finding something that they would like to read. While two of the schools we visited had recently acquired secondhand computers – I could not quite out how they would be integrated in the school curriculum. They were not turned on so I could not work out if operating systems and software were installed on them. At another school, there was a computer lab which was setup through the support of a business. However, some of these computers were operating on Windows 3.1 – and once again I could not work out how they were integrated in the curriculum. Sooner or later these machines would need to be disposed, the school did not seem to have a strategy for how this could be done. What I saw in these schools echoed some of the feedback that I received from the Head Teachers and Principals last week. It also justified why they felt that professional development of teachers in these areas was one of their high priorities.
There is another significant benefit of working in these schools. Coconuts are plentiful. As some of us know – “naiyar ke paani” or water from the coconut is like a health tonic from the heavens. While we had lots of these during our stay here – it was not enough. The ones that we get in Brisbane are imported from South East Asia – by the time they get to the supermarkets shelves (a few months later) – it ain’t “nariyar ke panni” any more.