Vanuatu School Visits

Published: May 28, 2024

Photo: Katie visiting St Barnabas Primary School, Vanuatu.

In March MMUK’s Executive Officer, Katie Drew, went to Vanuatu to visit some of the 20 church run schools, and to learn about the impacts of climate change, environmental degradation and living with earthquakes, volcanoes and cyclones.

Vanuatu is an archipelago of 80 islands, 65 of these are inhabited by the 336,000 population. The citizens of Vanuatu are referred to as Ni Vanuatu or Ni Van, and 95% are Christian. The Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACoM) has two dioceses in the northern part of the country. The national languages of Vanuatu are Bislama, English and French. Bislama is a Creole language and spoken by all Ni Van either as their first or second language. In total there are 138 different Vanuatu languages across the islands. Most people are subsistence farmers, and paid work mainly comes from fishing and tourism. The climate is tropical, with about nine months of warm to hot rainy weather and the possibility of cyclones, and three to four months of cooler, drier weather. The daily temperature ranges from 20–32 °C (68–90 °F). Vanuatu is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries concerning climate change and so-called natural disasters. Last year, it was hit by two category-four cyclones within three days.

Katie had firsthand experience of the challenging climate, with torrential rain making it impossible to visit some schools, due to flooded roads and cancelled flights between the islands. Children were also struggling to walk to their schools along flooded paths, missing valuable learning time. Buildings and school resources were also being battered by storms and cyclones. People spoke to Katie about how the climate is getting hotter, with less crop yields, and how the weather was unpredictable, with too much rain and other times not enough.

The Education Officers and ACoM Schools are eager to establish partnerships with UK schools, fostering joint learning between pupils and teachers. However, challenges exist—only select Vanuatu schools have internet access, and climate-related issues may limit communication with Education Officers. UK schools entering partnerships should be patient and understand there will be intermittent contact with their linked school. Despite these challenges, school partnerships can be highly rewarding.

Katie is available for in-person or online school talks and can provide guidance on setting up school partnerships.

Photo: Lorevuilko Primary School in Vanuatu.

Photo: Classroom at St Barnabas Primary School.