They (my parents) don’t want me to attend class in the school. They want me to stay at home but I never give up.
“That’s why I’m very strong because other
children, they have their parents to look after them, to support them. But for a person like me – no – so I have be strong and to do it myself.”
Esther is one of seven children – 5 boys and 2 girls – from a remote village on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. There was a lack of money in the family, not enough to support all seven children to go to school. As a result, Esther was told to stay at home and not attend school.
When she was 16, Esther’s father arranged a marriage with a man from another village to strengthen ties between the two villages. Esther did not want to marry this older man who she had never met. Her refusal was seen as disobedience, and Esther was forced to leave her village. She built her own small shack for shelter and grew her own food.
Esther in her garden growing her own food.
She continually searched for sponsorships and paid work to continue her education.
Esther persevered at school with a lack of equipment and clothing, but soon the increasing expenses of secondary schooling meant that she was unable to meet the financial requirements to stay enrolled. Esther had to leave school and spent two years back in her home village. A priest posted to her village recognized her potential and funded her secondary education.
Esther looked for opportunities after her secondary education, but the priest who had been supporting her did not agree with her choices, wanting her to become a nurse. Esther’s dream was to be a teacher. This meant Esther once again had to find her own way, balancing school, study and paid work.
She had nowhere to live until a Marist brother found her a place out of town. Although it was a long distance to town on the back of a truck each day, Esther maintained her studies with a scholarship for half of her fees for one year, and paid work to meet the rest of her expenses.
After three months, a visitor to the community who knew Esther asked if she would like to live with him and his wife in town. Esther agreed and spent the rest of the year living in town, continuing her studies and employment, and keeping the house for the man and his wife.
It’s too much, it’s very expensive. You have to meet everything like, uniforms, a sport uniform, the class uniform, the practical uniforms and … also other fee, so it’s too much.
They give me the book to catch up on the work I missed and after school one of the girls she say: “Okay we go home, you will live with
Esther was unable to find sponsorship for her second year of study, so she once again had to return to her home village. Her teachers noticed that she was no longer in class and after two months of the first school term, sent the parish priest to
her village to look for her.
Esther returned to town with the priest with no belongings, no money and no supplies for school. When she walked into her class she found that all of her class mates had contributed to supply her with the books and stationary that she needed, and the work she had missed for the two months she had been away. One girl organized for Esther to come and live with her and her family.
Still Esther yearned to become a teacher.
She heard about a teacher’s workshop that was being run in town that was jointly run by local education leaders and Australian volunteers. Some lecturers from Australian Catholic University were a part of the group, and there was an agreement with the university that assessments related to the conference could be used to gain credit towards a teaching qualification.
Esther with Mellita Jones, Founder and Director of the Esther Education Foundation.
Esther spoke to the group to see if she could take up this opportunity.
Unfortunately, Esther did not have the required level of education for entrance into the qualification, but one member of the group provided her with the sponsorship that she needed to attain this level, and to enter the teaching diploma at Solomon Islands College of Higher Education (SICHE).
She was provided board with local Salesian sisters who had previously taught her and completed the first year of the two-year qualification. In year two she won a government scholarship and was able to complete her Diploma. Esther is now a successful teacher and leader in her community.
She is currently the acting principal of her school where she hopes to guide and inspire other young girls to persevere and never give up hope. She is a fine example of what can be achieved with perseverance, courage and a lot of hard work. Esther risked everything by turning her back on an arranged marriage and fighting for her continued education. She is an inspiration for other young women and girls.
I asked Sister to write me a letter so I can attend that course. That’s where I met you and you helped me. Then after the course you keep on helping me. You meet all my expenses at the college, the first year. Then the second year, the government sponsors me. I am lucky because I’m passing everything.
Esther Graduating as a teacher in 2012