BY JOHN CHRISMA
WHEN Covid hit the Solomon Islands, alarm bells started ringing among locals, schools, businesses, and politicians, etc.
The question was: ‘What impact would the covid-19 pandemic have on schools in the country that depended on money to survive?
Would local schools continue as they struggled to feed their students and maintain financial operations?
As the pandemic evolves, however, a more interesting and encouraging picture is emerging in the country about the resilience of Bethesda School of People with Disabilities in times of crisis.
Recently, Environment Media Solomon Islands have the opportunity to visit Bethesda School of People with Disabilities is a Rural Training Centre (RTC) located east of the capital Honiara (Henderson Community) – arguably those expected to suffer a devastating fallout from the effects of the pandemic – offer fascinating insight and case in point.
The school administration said the school’s agriculture project like the poultry farming and vegetable farming continues to provide revenue to keep the school up and running.
“Our school’s life skills department has been very instrumental in generating revenue through agricultural projects and activities especially to get the school up and running despite the impact of the covid pandemic experience in the country.
“The school board, management, and administration are on day to day basis working closely with the department in ensuring the school is not financially affected.”
They added: “Eggs and a variety of vegetables produced and sold to local customers from our farms have continued to generate good revenue for the school.
“We sell out 20 to 30 dozens of eggs per day from our poultry farm including vegetables.”
Apart from several rural training centers providing life skills education for students with special needs in the country, Bethesda has enrolled 14 students with special needs (disability) this year. All students are accommodated at the school’s dormitory at Henderson.
They said as a rural training center, we have trained students with special needs in the trades of agriculture and carpentry.
“As a rural training center, we aim to simplify the specific subjects (agriculture and carpentry) being taught here, so that our students can practically learn quickly and also adapt both mentally and physically,” he said.
The school’s farming sector is currently facing a major problem with the daily running and maintenance of the transport vehicles.
“Since the school is isolated from Honiara, our biggest challenge the school faces is transport – Out of the five school vehicles, only one vehicle is currently in operation and it has supported us in the delivery of our agricultural produce to our customers.
“The school also lacks a qualified mechanic and proper workshop to fix our vehicles; our only vehicle is often unreliable due to mechanical problem.”
Last year, the school’s deteriorated access road was repaired by a local Chinese company, and the school administration thanked the company for taking the responsibility to ensure the potholes on the road were sealed.