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The towns of Kikori and Tari in Gulf and Hela provinces had extra reason to celebrate Literacy Week this September, thanks to two new literacy libraries funded by the Oil Search Foundation (OSF), in partnership with the community, churches and Buk bilong Pikinini.

Parents, kids and community members from both areas spent the week “Creating a Brighter Future”. This involved the local children building “robots” to better envisage the future and constructing bridges, towers and mazes – activities designed to encourage creativity and problem solving.

For the residents of Tari, it was an opportunity to celebrate literacy in a centre that has been specifically built to promote it. An innovative learning environment that caters to 76 kids under six, the Habare Literary Library was launched by OSF Chair Peter Botten in February earlier this year.

A mother of one of the students present told OSF staff member Daisy Raburabu that she herself could not read and had been using the library to further her own education, as well as her daughters.

Just about every day for months, now, she’s been bringing her daughter into the classroom, and then taking a seat herself, up the back. Both of them are now at the point where they can read basic one-line sentences. It’s really wonderful.
- Daisy Raburabu Foundation Staff Member

In Kikori, meanwhile, the community has a brand, new literary library to gather in and around over the week. Due to officially open in October 2019, after construction was completed last month, the facility will host reading, writing and phonics classes for children aged between four and six. The whole community will also be able to use the facility, during the afternoons.

Despite the rainy weather, the community commitment shined bright all through the week, with children, parents and community members turning out to support the robot-building activities. The children really were dreaming a brighter future as they turned their “robots” into pilots, doctors, race cars and police officers, not to mention a small human to help their parents process sago.

A local scientist helped with the robot-building, and urged all the children present to keep dreaming big. “If a little girl from Madang can become a scientist chasing her dreams in Kikori,” Ms Yolanie said, “a little Kikori child can become anything”.

OSF’s Amanda Anderson very much shares her confidence, “The community of Kikori is a huge inspiration,” she says, of the parental and community efforts that have brought the libraries to life. For over a year the Kikori community and a local church ran the children’s literacy library in a temporary classroom whilst they waited for the new building, in a measure of their determination to get their kids reading.

Over the last few years, we’ve just seen so many people go above and beyond the call of duty to help these kids develop that love of learning. They absolutely realise that reading and writing are not just about doing well in school. They are tools that will equip them for life.
- Amanda Anderson Oil Search Foundation

“At Oil Search Foundation, we want to do absolutely everything we can to promote early childhood education,” agreed Daisy Raburabu, in Hela. “With the Australian Government and the local Member of Parliament, Mr. Petrus Thomas, we are looking at opening the Fugwa Literacy library in Koroba later this year.

“Plans are also being developed to support Adult Literacy in 2020, as we believe literate adults will be more likely support and advocate for improved literacy for their children.”