UnitingWorld is working in partnership with the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga (FWCT) to establish local kindergartens to increase the quality of children’s education.
Kindergartens help young children become accustomed to the school environment and learn educational basics, build important skills in social interaction and provide a safe place for children.
In 2008, The FWCT undertook a national review of their education system, culminating in the development of a new strategic plan.
Through this review, the importance of early childhood education became apparent.
Many children have limited opportunities for social and skilled development in the pre-school years. In recognition of both the absence of early childhood education and the value of such education, Tongan communities have sought to initiate the establishment of such centres. These centres are being run in whatever space is available in the community and are run by dedicated women, most of whom have little or no education training.
The Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, along with the support of UnitingWorld, is seeking to strengthen the existing early childhood centres and establish new ones, particularly in remote areas of Tonga. At the beginning of 2011, the FWCT made a commitment to establish and/or support at least two early childhood centres a year and to train all kindergarten teachers in early childhood education.
Recognising the increased number of children with disabilities and special needs enrolling in mainstream FWCT kindergartens, UnitingWorld is working alongside the FWCT to provide disability inclusion training to kindergarten teachers in Tonga, making sure all children are given the opportunity to learn and grow.
Kindergarten teachers attend professional development training workshops which focus on disability inclusion in Early Childhood Education. The aim of this training is to equip kindergarten teachers to be able to provide quality education to all students in their classroom by better understanding the individual needs of children – especially those with a disability.
In February 2012 a new kindergarten was officially opened, replacing a former, overcrowded kindergarten with substandard facilities. This kindergarten has been built to cater to the local climate, and has been growing significantly!
30 teachers from kindergartens in Niuatoputapu, Vava’u, Ha’apai, ‘Eua and Tongatapu recived scholarships to participate in the Certificate of Early Childhood Education training. The scholarships included course fees, materials and a small weekly allowance.
In December 2013 kindergarten teachers from all over Tonga attended inclusive teaching training, equipping them to cater to the needs of students with disabilities. Some primary teachers from both the FWCT and Government schools systems also participated in recognition that as the children move on from kindergarten to primary school, a wider understanding of disability inclusion is necessary if children with disabilities are to have the same opportunity to succeed in primary as they are experiencing in kindergarten.
In 2014 all kindergarten teachers have had access to regular professional development training, with a special focus on Child Protection and Disability Inclusive Education.