BY GEORGINA KEKEA
BELAHA School in Central Guadalcanal is located in one of the lucrative spot of royalty. In Guadalcanal, people from Central Guadalcanal are said to be one of the prime beneficiaries of monies from operations through mining, logging, gravel but to name a few.
Host to Belaha School, the status of the school itself does not reflect a school that comes from such background.
With more than 300 students ranging from Early Childhood, Primary to Secondary, Belaha is one of the many schools in Guadalcanal that still practice open-defecation and also faces deregistration.
Speaking to Island Sun last week, School Principal Francis Labu says Belaha School is a long way to meet the WASH Standards set by Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development (MEHRD). He said the recent launched WASH standard calls for greater cooperation from the schools.
“We do not really have the support from our parents as one would expect. Probably because they do not see education as important for their children because they already benefit from monies from royalty and do not see the need to have their children going to school. Because school or no school, they will have money anyway,” Labu said.
He said these are some challenges the school is faced with. Though there is support for the school, it is very minimal.
He said often, Solomon Islanders relate education to work to make money but this is not the case.
“Education makes us think and open our minds to new ideas. Education is not only to have a job to make money.”
He said being a school in rural area, they are quite flexible with how they do things.
Some of the students walk an hour to get to school and some crossed rivers and streams prone to flash floods and so they do not really have an accurate data on why students do not come to school.
However in a study done by UNICEF, girls are often the ones most prone to miss classes when there is lack of water and sanitation.
The report said lack of adequate WASH facilities and supportive environments at schools disproportionately affects girls.
The report continued to say that absenteeism is high when there is lack of water and sanitation.
For Belaha School, it was reported that they do not groom much students in the work force as much as they would love to.
So far since its establishment, only two ni-Belaha students had been able to further their education to University level.
It is the trend to see students going to school for a short time only and mostly those from outside the community has been able to complete their studies.
He said it is often the norm to see students from that area dropping out from school when they reach higher education.
This is often attributed to the fact that they do not see the need to further their education because they have an avenue where they can earn money without the need for education, Labu said.
“First through Goldridge, during the mining days where people pan for gold and then now the current logging operations and we still have the Tina Hydro project forthcoming.
“We have been established for quite a while now. The registration of this school was done during the Goldridge days. That was when the company provided water supply and other basic needs to keep the school running. When they left, everything just went downhill from there,” Labu said.
Despite the shortfalls and lack of support for the school, Labu is optimistic that they will meet the standard expected of them soon.
He said things are starting to change for them as the connection they have established with the company operating in their area has shed some positive light in their development plans.
Also they are now waiting for the implementing agency for their WASH project to assist them implement their water and sanitation project.
Last week, Galego Company the company doing logging operations in their area had donated $20,000 for the school.
Labu says if the WASH project is not forthcoming as yet, they will then use this money to build an ablution block for the students.
Currently Belaha School has 18 teachers but only eight staff houses.
They are now planning to visit Galego soon for assistance of timber to build new staff houses and for transportation of logs to their area so that they can start work on the staff houses.
Labu says they have big plans for the school but they need the support from their local community.