They are among thousands of teachers driving and participating in a program to improve education outcomes for girls and boys.
International Women’s Day (March 8th) is an opportune time to celebrate the achievements of women teachers who are advocating for change and greater equality for their students.
Since 2018, the Papua New Guinea-Australia Partnership has supported the Rapidly Improving Standards in Elementary Education project (RISE), which has trained more than 2,500 teachers and is benefiting over 100,000 girls and boys across the country.
Ola Wamane taught at Save Mission Elementary School in East Sepik for six years before taking part in the RISE training.
She said the teacher training gave her a better understanding of children with disabilities – including the disproportionate challenges faced by girls with disabilities – and gave her tools to more effectively support their learning.
“The training I received from RISE introduced me to inclusive education and the easy to follow modules taught me how to engage children with special needs in the classroom,” Wamane said.
“It boosted my morale to teach little children because the teaching manuals developed and supplied by the project were already prepared and it was easy to follow through and engage with the students.
“During classroom group activities, I ensure equal number of girls and boys are represented in each of the groups and participate equally,” she continued.
“I also spend extra time especially during breaks with students with learning difficulties so they can catch-up with rest of the student population and learn at the same pace.”
Ola also ensures girls and boys are given an equal voice in her classroom activities and all students are encouraged to speak out and express their opinions.
These messages were reiterated by Rosalind Keros, a teacher at the Buka Inclusive Education Resource Centre, who understands the importance of educating children with disabilities.
With support from RISE, the centre provides a safe and suitable environment for Rosalind to 12 children with special needs.
“Inclusive education reduces discrimination by enabling children with and without disabilities to grow and do things together,” said Keros.
RISE draws on the expertise of experienced local teacher trainers to contribute ideas to enhance the elementary education system in their provinces and districts.
One such trainer is Margaret Gordon, a former teacher and now teacher trainer, is motivating women in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville to improve elementary education in the region.
Gordon, who has trained countless elementary teachers and encouraged many women to enter the education sector, said RISE is helping to fill gaps in the education system.
“I am really enjoying being a partner trainer with RISE because it is part of my job as a teacher trainer to help teachers in their English and Maths teaching strategies,” she said.
“The project has enabled me to visit schools I have never been able to reach before.
“I see communities valuing education because they want to see improvement in their children.”
In PNG, 63 percent of boys attend primary school, while the rate for girls is only 55 percent – however the gaps are closing and Gordon believes having more women teachers is making a difference.
“Women as well as male teachers should be raising gender equality awareness and promoting important behavioural patterns in students,” she said.
“Empowering female teachers in the education sector can create a school environment that makes girls feel comfortable to learn and grow.”
RISE focuses on teacher professional development by providing teachers with tools and learning resources in early childhood education including inclusive education.
It is delivered by Save the Children in collaboration with the Autonomous Region of Bougainville Government, church education agencies, Callan Services National Unit and the Summer Institute of Linguistics PNG.
(Rosalind Keros supports her students with individual education plans)