By Evelyne Toa

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Port Vila Presse, Aug. 29) - The Ministry of Education is now operating in its new complex funded under the EUVED program, and whose official opening was held on Friday the 22nd August 2003.

"This beautiful structure will stay for a long time to demonstrate the solidarity of Europe with Vanuatu. It must be emphasized that this building has been designed in-house and supervised by the EUVED staff. It has been built by a Vanuatu construction company. An overall success story," Costas Tsilogiannis, Vanuatu-based Chargé d'Affaires of the European Commission.

"Following the devastating earthquake of January 2002, I concurred with the government's argument that the effective management of the large EU-funded education program necessitated the proper functioning of the ministry concerned. Having advanced this argument to my headquarters in Brussels, and after intensive consultations, I managed to convince them of the need to reconstruct the Ministry of Education central building," stated Tsilogiannis.

He added: "Today's inauguration may be also taken as a ceremony marking the completion of the EUVED Program as a whole, since it comes to its 4-year end now. A major factor that contributed to the success of the project has been the good work done by the project implementation unit, that comprised both expatriates and locally recruited staff."

Tsilogiannis also said that there is another project in the works for post-primary education, this time concentrating on community schools, the so-called 'top-up schools.' Up to 30 of them, to be selected on the basis of strict selection criteria, scattered around the country, are envisaged to benefit from the project. It will involve, in essence, the building of two new classrooms in existing primary schools, in order to allow the enrolment of year 7 and year 8 students. Such an intervention, in line with the ministry's policy of 'education for all,' will allow hundreds of primary school leavers to follow 2 more years of basic education, so that when they graduate from these schools they will have acquired skills that will help them become productive citizens.

"Education has been the focal sector of EU assistance to Vanuatu for a long time now. The EUVED Program alone cost more than VT 1 billion. The new Education and Training Program will cost around VT 600 million. This concentration, with the agreement with the government, is aimed at contributing to the eradication of poverty by facilitating access to education," stated Tsilogiannis.

Many, like EUVED Project representative Mikko Koria, recall with nostalgia the old building of the Ministry of Education that was built in the 60's to house the administrative center for French Colonial Educational which looks after the lycée Louis Antoine de Bougainville and the INTV, now Vanuatu Institute of Technology(VIT).

The new facilities will house both the Ministry and the Department of Education, and it represents a major improvement in the working environment for the staff.

September 1, 2003

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