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(March 2010) Nineteen mother-tongue teachers are beginning the fourth module of a two-year literacy trainers program held at Ukarumpa in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG). This Pacific country is one of the most linguistically diverse nations of the world with more than 830 spoken languages. The SIL-developed STEP* course is divided into five modules over two years and equips teachers to serve their own communities.
Participants learn to initiate and sustain mother-tongue education and literacy programs for all ages. SIL provides some of the course instructors and mentors. Since 1994, STEP has graduated more than two-hundred literacy trainers. Graduation for the current two-year course will be held in August 2010.
The current class of literacy trainers represents twelve languages from six provinces of PNG: Central, East Sepik, Eastern Highlands, Madang, Oro and Southern Highlands. Many of the communities represented now have literacy boards and committees that formally recognize these STEP graduates as the literacy supervisors of their community-based literacy programs.
Most hold teaching positions as mother-tongue preschool and elementary teachers, adult literacy instructors or church workers. Some are training to become teachers. Many STEP alumni become community leaders. Some teach under the national multilingual education system as well as train other mother-tongue teachers.
STEP course participants learn the main components of a successful literacy program. This training equips them to assist their students in reading fluency and creative writing skills. One aspect of an on-going literacy program includes materials production.I want to thank STEP for the seeds planted in me here. They are bearing fruit in my life and in my community. - Participant Billy Aro, Abadi language
The participants are training to be trainers and developers of the whole literacy program, including curriculum, term plans and teacher training for their program. A large part of their training includes leadership principles.
The course curriculum consists of five one-month classroom modules. In between each classroom module, the course participants return to their local communities to complete assignments that put into practice the concepts and skills they have learned.
Initially developed by SIL, STEP is assisted by a local nongovernmental organization, the Papua New Guinea Bible Translation Association (PNGBTA). The Vice Principal for this year’s course is Mara Iyama who is with PNGBTA. Seven PNG mentors are involved in this session, three of whom are STEP alumni. SIL PNG also continues to provide staff.
“The STEP course is committed to the empowerment of Papua New Guineans as competent resource people with a vision to serve their own communities by developing, managing and expanding sustainable vernacular literacy and education programs throughout the country.”
* Strengthening Tokples Education in Papua New Guinea; tokples means ‘mother tongue’ in Melanesian Pidgin.