In return, the Ministry of Education through a generous New Zealand aid programme grant brought ten computers, one for each teacher. Mathew Easterbrook, the learning and teaching advisor, helped programme each computer specific to the lesson plan needs of each teacher. “We want,” he said “these computers to really get utilised and experimented with. We want to have regular Skype informational technology sessions. We want them to be extensions of the textbook and to help them create virtual worlds.” The Ministry of Education will use UNESCO informational technology benchmarks to ensure computer literacy for each teacher. In his address to the teachers, Minister of Education and outer island advocate Teina Bishop said, “rather than Wale having to go to the world, we want the world to come to Wale.” Everyone cheered.
Sharyn Paio, secretary of education, announced during her address “the outer islands have been first this time. Teachers in Rarotonga still haven’t received their computers yet.” Everyone cheered again.
In the brief visit, two informational technology specialists, Tekura and Tau, set up wireless for the whole school, which feels like a minor miracle. “This is great,” said Lito Tinokula Island Council School Representative, “but without a working generator and a steady source of power, we won’t be able to even turn the computers on.” Everyone laughed and the ministry promised to resolve the nagging generator issue. Transportation remains a barrier in bringing needed supplies to the school and the ministry kindly took the bulky, broken photocopy machine onto the plane and back to Rarotonga for repairs. The Ministry of Education’s head of maintenance, Tutai, also accompanied the tele party and made careful assessment of the maintenance needs and current assets of Niua School.
During the handover ceremony, the teachers smiled proudly holding their individual laptops. Karanga Ukeria, Social Science teacher said, “this is a great idea. Before we only had three computers for all the teachers to use and they had to stay at the school. Now I will use this to do my unit plans, look for teaching resources, make PowerPoints, and Skype the ministry and especially the Social Science advisors.”
Vaine Teingoa has taught in the early childhood program for over forty years. “This is my first computer,” she said, “I will have to train myself.” Everyone looked forward to experimenting.
This marked Paio’s first visit to Pukapuka as secretary of education and she utilised the time to assess the school, meet with teachers and staff, hold meetings, hire a new ECE assistant, answer questions about the new Education act, meet with the School Committee and oversee the smooth handover of the computers and wireless set up. She did not have time to see the beautiful motu of Pukapuka or take a swim in the lagoon. She and the Ministry of Education tele promised to return soon. “I have to leave in order to come back,” said Teina Bishop in his parting words. Everyone nodded, thanked the team and handed out more ei. “There will be twenty laptops for students coming on the next boat,” Paio reminded everyone. The students cheered. They too, look forward to experimenting.