Thirty-seven teachers in Vanuatu are the first to enrol in a newly offered Diploma in Applied Mission Studies.
The Diploma, that is accredited through the South Pacific Association of Theological Schools is undertaken in a two-tiered certificate course format.
The successful completion of a Certificate in Social Analysis plus an elective which could be either a Gender Voices for Dignity or a Peacebuilding Certificate Course results in the award of the Diploma.
The teachers are sponsored by the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu with the support of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The Diploma has been entirely delivered online using both the Moodle and the Zoom video conferencing platform for virtual face to face interactions.
The IMR previously only offered its capacity building courses at the professional development level.
Director of the Institute for Mission and Research Aisake Casimira said the Diploma was created in response to a request from the churches at their general secretaries meeting, held in Nadi, Fiji in 2019.
‘Church participants of the Diploma have the opportunity to progress in terms of academic learning,’ said Mr Casimira.
‘With the Pacific Theological College’s plans to become a University, the Diploma creates a pathway for its students to progress into an Undergraduate programme.’
‘The way the Diploma is structured though, with its two-tiered certificate courses, students can opt out with a Certificate,’ he said.
Mr Casimira said the creation of the Diploma course does not stop churches from continuing to upskill its people with Certificate courses and professional development workshops offered by IMR.
A participant, John Webster who teaches at Freshwater School where he also serves as the Deputy Principal said skills in social analysis will impact how they deal with children in school.
‘The course is very useful because it allows us to analyse issues, think about it before reacting and just dishing out punishment as we do in schools,’ said Mr Webster.
‘The reframing methodology used in the Course teaches us to look at the reality of the situations children live in and consider these well before responding,’ he said.
‘Another thing I truly appreciate is looking at social issues as a Christian or how would Jesus deal with it,’ he added.
‘In our concept before the training we just go to the punishment and everybody remains the same and nothing changes but we will be able to reach better solutions for our children now.’
‘The last session about the arts that was really interesting and we really enjoyed it because in Vanuatu, art is not so valued but now after the training, we will be using it more in school.’
‘Children learn differently and art is a crucial way of learning and sharing important information with them.’
‘They can use it too to express themselves.’
‘For me personally, the training has been so impactful,’ said Mr Webster.
Louisa, a Year Seven and Eight teacher at a school in the South of Efate Island also enjoyed the ‘changing of the story’ or reframing methodology.
‘Before we used to discipline students right on the spot without analysing the issue and it just made them naughtier but now, I am going to analyse the issues these children face that’s contributing to their behaviours,’ said Ms. Louisa.
She highlighted the common issue of negligent and missing parents, spending long hours consuming kava at nakamals instead of being home to assist their children with their homework’s.
‘Eventually, children see their parents don’t care and lose interest in their school work, suffering academic fails,’ she said.
The Diploma course participants are expected to graduate in April, 2021.