St Joseph’s School is located in Tenaru, Guadalcanal Province of the Solomon Islands.
“The Marist Brothers established the school in 1946 having taken over a disused US army hospital about 20kms East of Honiara at a place called Tenaru which was near where the Americans had previously landed to retake the island from the Japanese. The brothers and lay staff together ensured that St Joseph’s became a strong secondary school built on a firm foundation of academic and practical subjects. Much effort was invested by both brothers and lay staff to maintain the students’ traditions as well.” – Brother Paul Murphy fms (Tenaru 1971-1994)
St Joseph’s was established in the late 1940s as a boys’ school, becoming co- educational in 1972 and supports more than 522 students, 33 Staff (teaching and non- teaching) and the surrounding community. Many of the buildings and classrooms that stand today are original. These building play a vital role in the school and community as they often double as food preparation areas for events and functions, as meeting rooms and emergency accommodation.
In 2014 the school and the staff houses all suffered flooding as a result of heavy rain. This particular natural disaster left 22 people dead and over 50,000 people homeless. The area of the school is low-lying and often floods during extreme wet seasons which has caused some staff houses to be completely uninhabitable. The school encompasses multi-storey buildings so was largely spared from the floods, however, all the staff and the principal’s houses were inundated as they are ground level dwellings.
AMS has been working in partnership with St Joseph’s school to design and construct 14 new staff houses over a period of time. Each house will be raised on stilts and be inhabited by either single teachers, or a married couple and their family with all the basic living necessities. Schools in the Solomon Islands need to offer appropriate staff housing otherwise they cannot attract teachers to the school. At an approximate cost of $75,000 AUD, the school is unable to follow through on the constructions of these dwellings without the support of donations. Now thanks to the generous support of Catholic Mission, as well as local donations, St Joseph’s School is step closer to their first two houses.
St Joseph’s School is one of only seven National Secondary Schools within the Solomon Islands providing high school education to boys and girls. With a countrywide net enrolment rate at secondary schools of just 42%, it is critical to be able to engage students through qualified and experienced teachers, especially considering that only around 70% of teachers in secondary schools in the Solomon Islands are trained (The World Bank 2012). Students and staff travel from remote villages and islands from all over the Solomons to board at the Marist school.
To support education in the Solomon Islands please visit: www.australianmaristsolidarity.net.au/country/solomon-islands