Posted by Br Gary Wison
on 16 June 2021
La Salle Technical College (LSTC) in suburban Port Moresby is bursting at the seams, as it changes to the national curriculum. Approaching the College's 50-year anniversary, the Government wanted its 680 female and male students to change from the distance education syllabus, to the standard Year 9 syllabus. (The pressure comes too from higher employer expectations and increased numbers of eligible primary school students). This prospect will result in bigger enrolments of students, who are still largely from poor settlements. A modern and flexible library resource centre is a necessity.
Formerly known as Hohola Youth Development Centre, the College was established by the Brigidine Sisters in 1973, to provide non-formal and trade training opportunities for young people who were not accepted into a secondary school. It is a "permitted school" with its courses recognised by the government, but receiving no regular government funding.
With the ballooning student population in the last 10 years, a more multi-functional learning / resource space was needed. The previous library had been established in 2009, when class sizes were about 35. It now struggled to cater for 50 students, the size of a current average class.(There is government pressure (but no funding), to increase its enrolment to 1000 students in the next two years).
Another reason for a new library was explained by Br. John, the previous Principal. The language most students hear and use every day is really their second or third language. Tok pisin, the common local language, or a regional one is the home speech used. A crying need, now recently fulfilled, is an attractive, well- stocked resource centre a great way to promote the use of English, itself an important aim in a developing country.
Extending the project to new library stock and furniture would help the plan to implement the PNG National Curriculum for Grade 9 in February 2021. A new curriculum means class sets of new textbooks. These will be used by 165 students each year for at least five years. The school now had, in addition, an experienced, qualified Librarian, Cecilia, from the Highlands.
La Salle Technical has a reputation for getting things done. Over the last decade, it successfully netted two AUSAid funding offerings, and partnered with the Australian agency to provide 14 additional classrooms and new workshops for auto-mechanics, metal and carpentry, and expansion of the curriculum to Grade 11. Built also was a large multi-purpose hall, administration area and electro-technology facilities.
Fortunately, Br. Adrian Watson, Acting CEO of the District Lasallian Foundation, was on hand to write up a project brief, and submit it to the international Brothers aid agency in Rome. Funding from Lasallian Solidarity (including JAPAN NAP Alumni) gifted the execution of the project. It aimed to expand the size of the library by half, provide staff and students with more electronic and printed resources, facilitate reading and study spaces (seldom available at home), and provide new flexible furniture with the new resources.
Now with the project completed, the results are that the teachers are using the resource centre more frequently for their classes. Groups now undertake subject research, engage in group discussions and have increased access to computers. Individual students are coming in before and after school, and during recess and lunch breaks, for personal study and reading activities.
La Salle now has excellent facilities, even without secure ongoing Government funding, to give disadvantaged PNG youth "a second chance" at education - and the prospect of employment.