UNE welcomes Pacific leaders in early childhood education

Published 07 July 2009

rhondaunaisiThe University of New England has welcomed 12 fellowship-holders from Pacific nations whose visit to UNE is part of an AusAID-funded project aimed at improving early childhood education in their home countries.

The Australian Leadership Award Fellows come from Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga and Papua New Guinea, and are all leaders in the field of early childhood education.

During their three-week stay at UNE they will take part in a program of workshops in leadership and action-oriented research, and each Fellow will decide on a project that they will undertake in their home countries over the next 12 months to improve some aspect of early childhood education.

At an official welcome yesterday, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alan Pettigrew, thanked them for their dedication in coming all the way to a wintry New England, and said the University was looking forward to the productive exchange of ideas that would result from their visit. The Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of UNE’s Faculty of The Professions, Professor Victor Minichiello, and the Head of the School of Education, Professor Len Unsworth, both said they hoped the visit would initiate long-term links relating to early childhood education between UNE and the Fellows’ Pacific nations. All three of these speakers thanked Dr Rhonda Forrest, Associate Professor Tom Maxwell, Associate Professor Neil Taylor and their colleagues in the School of Education for their work in securing the fellowships and organising the visit.

The leader of the Pacific Island group, Mrs Unaisi Tuivaga from Fiji, thanked those involved “for bringing us across to this beautiful place”, and for the opportunity to share ideas and experiences and to initiate projects for the improvement of early childhood education in the Pacific. “We’re looking forward to going back home and making a real difference in whatever area we choose for our projects,” she said.

Mrs Tuivaga, who is the President of the Fiji Early Childhood Association, is currently assisting Fiji’s Ministry of Education in the development of national curriculum guidelines for early childhood education. She explained that, in Fiji and other Pacific Island nations, early childhood education had so far been undertaken largely by community-based organisations rather than by governments.

Dr Kapa Kelep-Malpo, the Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Goroka in Papua New Guinea, thanked those involved for bringing her and her Pacific colleagues together at UNE for assistance in planning projects for the improvement of early childhood education in their countries.

Dr Kelep-Malpo said that the University of Goroka would be offering an early childhood program – the first in Papua New Guinea – next year, adding that the Fellowship program would assist her and her University of Goroka colleague Miss Olive Losane (who is also one of the visiting Fellows) to prepare for its introduction.

As part of their visit, all of the 12 Fellows will participate in a symposium at UNE on the 17th, 18th and 19th of July titled “Early Childhood Leadership: Regional and Global Impact” – a symposium that will bring together 50 leaders in early childhood education from around the region.

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows UNE’s Dr Rhonda Forrest with Mrs Unaisi Tuivaga.