Pacific: educating islanders

One million Pacific children receive no formal education. That's about to change.

With nearly 7% of New Zealand's inhabitants, and rising, Pacific islanders constitute an ever-growing contingent. Auckland is renowned as being the world's largest Pacific city. And islanders continue to emigrate south to the 'Land of the Long White Cloud'. In particular therefore, Kiwis have a huge incentive to make sure islanders get educated back in the islands.

Samoans make up the largest Pacific group in Australia, but even they number less than 20,000. But Australia bears its share of the regional development burdon.

At the recent Pacific Forum meeting in Auckland it was announced that additional funds would be allocated to primary and secondary schooling in the Pacific region.

TVNZ reported that New Zealand PM John Key said that New Zealand and Australia want to get "over 500,000 more children in the Pacific into education by 2021, ensuring that 75% of children can read in the region by the age of 10. Currently we believe there's around one million children who are currently not involved in formal education in the Pacific." New Zealand will provide US$120m and Australia US$130m above existing commitments over four years. New Zealand will allocate a further US$101m for scholarships and training over the same period.

Not before time. Poverty, indebtedness and welfare-dependency are leading challenges faced by many NZ-based Pacific people, particularly in South Auckland. Educating kids in the islands may go some way to enhancing these countries' GDPs, stemming the tide south and even re-attracting some to return. Niue is a stark example, where less than 1,400 still remain yet 20,000 live in New Zealand, where they make up 9% of the Pacific people there. Niue's future viability depends on its ability to retain and re-attract Niueans.

These islands try everything to stimulate trade and develop their economies through tourism, agriculture and off-shore financial services. Education will speed the growth of these industries as well as encourage new ones.

Every attempt is made to execute innovative ideas to grow these economies. For example, Samoa switched in 2009 to driving on the left to mimic New Zealand and Australia, and in December it'll cross the Date Line to increase trade with its large Australasian neighbours. Samoan PM Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi told the BBC: "In doing business with New Zealand and Australia, we're losing out on two working days a week. While it's Friday here, it's Saturday in New Zealand and when we're at church Sunday, they're already conducting business in Sydney and Brisbane."

Demographics and GDPs (per head) of Members of the Pacific Islands Forum:
  • Cook Islands - population c. 11,000, of which 25.1% are aged 0-14 years. Per capita GDP (PPP) US$9,100 (2005) world ranking No.115
  • Kiribati - population c. 101,000, of which 33.9% are aged 0-14 years. Per capita GDP (PPP) US$6,200 (2010) world ranking No.136
  • Marshall Islands - population c. 67,000, of which 38.2% are aged 0-14 years.Per capita GDP (PPP) US$2,500 (2008) world ranking No.180
  • Micronesia - population c. 107,000, of which 33.6% are aged 0-14 years. Per capita GDP (PPP) US$2,200 (2008) world ranking No.186
  • Nauru - population c. 9,300, of which 33% are aged 0-14 years.Per capita GDP (PPP) US$5,000 (2005) world ranking No.147
  • Niue - population c. 1,311 and a country with a net annual population loss rate of 0.32%. Per capita GDP (PPP) US$5,800 (2003) world ranking No.139
  • Palau - population c. 21,000, of which 21.5% are aged 0-14 years. Per capita GDP (PPP) US$8,100 (2008) world ranking No.121
  • Papua New Guinea - population nearly 6.2 million, of which 36.4% are aged 0-14 years. Per capita GDP (PPP) US$2,500 (2010) world ranking No.179
  • Samoa - population c. 187,000 of which c. 93% are ethnic Samoans. 35.4% of Samoa's people are aged 0-14 years. In 2006 there were c. 131,000 Samoans living in New Zealand (c. 2.1% of the country's population) of which c. 51,000 were born in Samoa. Per capita GDP (PPP) US$5,500 (2010) world ranking No.141
  • Solomon Islands - population 572,000, of which 37.8% are aged 0-14 years.Per capita GDP (PPP) US$2,900 (2010)
  • Tonga - population c. 106,000, of which 37.2% are aged 0-14 years. Per capita GDP (PPP) US$6,100 (2010) world ranking No.138
  • Tuvalu - population c. 10,500, of which 30.6% are aged 0-14 years.Per capita GDP (PPP) US$3,400 (2010) world ranking No.164
  • Vanuatu - population c. 225,000. of which 29.6% are aged 0-14 years. Per capita GDP (PPP) US$5,100 (2010) world ranking No.146.
Source: World Factbook

    NOTE (1) Other full Members:
    • Australia - population c. 21.8 million. Per capita GDP (PPP) US$41,000 (2010) world ranking No.18
    • New Zealand - population c. 4.3 million. Per capita GDP (PPP) US$27,700 (2010) world ranking No.51.

    NOTE (2) Associate Members:
    • Timor-Leste (also known as East Timor)
    • New Caledonia (to France)
    • French Polynesia (to France)
    • Tokelau (to New Zealand)
    • Wallis & Fortuna (to France)
    • The United Nations
    • The Asian Development Bank
    • The Commonwealth of Nations
    • The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC)

    NOTE (3) Suspended Member:
      • Fiji - population c. 883,000, of which 57.3% are ethnic Fijians. 28.9% of Fiji's population are aged 0-14 years. Membership of the Pacific Island Forum has been suspended since May 2, 2009, due to the lack of democratic elections following an effective coup. Per capita GDP (PPP) US$4,400 (2010) world ranking No.154.
      Source: World Factbook

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