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Melanesian Messenger Online distributed by the
Church of the Province of Melanesia
Training Centres under review
July 30, 2009

As the need for more vocational training increases in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu the Church is looking at ways to support such trainings and develop policies to guide it. Lesley Hoatson reports.

[Melanesian Messenger - Melanesia] In mid July 2009 personnel's with the Anglican Church in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu who are involved with Rural Training centres met at the St. Barnabas Provincial Cathedral Hall in Honiara to review the development of RTCís in the two countries.

Archbishop of Melanesia the Most Rev. David Vunagi led a reflection to start the consultation. The RTC principals, diocesan secretaries and other stakeholders were also joined by the General Secretary, George Kiriau, and Education Secretaries Fred Tari from Vanuatu and John Kela from the Solomonís.
The consultation was funded by the American Church through Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) and Kirsten Muth who is Senior Director for the Asia Pacific was also able to attend.

Each of the centres had passed on details of their work to Education officers Informal Augustine Rihae for Vanuatu and George Kokili for Solomon Islands and together with Josiah Maesua the Principal of Airahu Training Centre and Lesley Hoatson the Melanesian Board of Mission Adviser, a document was drafted to act as background to the consultation. Central to the discussion was how could the church respond to the increasing demand for places in RTCís and how could RTC training be improved.

ACOM General Secretary George Kiriau gave a paper arguing that the Church cannot afford to ignore the fact that in both countries for every person getting a place at an RTC there were many (possibly up to 8 or 9) who missed out. The dilemma for the Church however is that RTCís are expensive to run and so it is really difficult for the Church to fund more than one RTC per diocese.

Presently there are two dioceses without RTCís. These are Diocese of Central Melanesia and Diocese of Central Solomons. However DOCS has asked the Church for help to develop an RTC at Taroniara on Ngella and requested the Church to assist in sorting out the land. Because of the pressure of creating additional RTCís the policy of having affiliated RTCís was adopted some years ago because the Church was not able to stretch its budget to cover additional RTCís. There are now two affiliated RTCís in DOVNC. They are located at Agape and Narea in predominantly Anglican populated areas where it is felt that the Church ought to be doing more for their children.

Church support was initially agreed upon to be in terms of training that could be done through the Church or materials or books that may become available to the Church such as donations. The two affiliated RTCís now receive some minimal financial assistance from the ACOM Vanuatu office in Santo and other financial support from the Provincial budget.
The Diocese of Ysabel also runs an additional RTC at Kholaero and is planning a third one in the Russell's. It has also secured external assistance to establish a community based RTC in Choiseul Province. The Diocese felt that it covered a wide area and saw it necessary to establish additional centres.
Also the Church plans to support a community based centre in the Weathercoast of Guadalcanal.

It is clear that for the Church to increase RTC places it has to find effective ways of centres raising their own funds. Torgil in Ambae has shown that this is possible. They currently raise large amounts of money through running carpentry and mechanic businesses, their hospitality course runs a rest house, sewing and cooking projects and they have a house for rent. Discussion centred around ways for making the centres more self sustainable as well as how the church could support village based Community Learning Centres to open up options for village learning, strategies for RTCís to increase their intake and especially intake of women and how new subjects could be introduced.

The consultation recognised the need for a formal ACOM policy to be developed around RTCís. The Education Secretaries met in Vanuatu in August to begin drafting the policy and ERD has offered to accept a proposal for funding to encourage self sustainability for 2010.