My island home
Leaf-hut villages, volcanic islands, windswept beaches and emerald jungles – the Solomon Islands is the type of place you might expect to see on the Discovery Channel, but for Bridget Daly, it’s home. After she completed her studies in 2013, Daly’s husband accepted a job with World Vision International on Guadalcanal. “When the opportunity arose it was too good to pass up,” she says.
It was a move that would prove serendipitous for her career as well. During her first weekend in town, she attended the Coconut Olympics – a hotly contested event featuring unconventional sports such as coconut curling. Between heats, Daly was introduced to the curriculum co-ordinator of Woodford International School. Soon after, she landed a teaching role in its primary-years program.
Twelve months on, Daly is still pinching herself. “I never imagined I’d be living and working on an island in the Pacific,” she says.
While the surrounds are vastly different to Melbourne, the daily routine isn’t that dissimilar. “It’s early starts and late nights,” she says. “But I’m also learning a new language, culture and different ways to approach life and teaching, which makes the experience a truly rich one.”
Excitable chatter can be heard from the classroom as students eagerly await their next lesson. They come from a variety of backgrounds – Kiribati, South Korea, Papua New Guinea, Malawi and the Solomons. Roles are often reversed as they teach Daly about their cultural traditions.
“Every day I am brimming with joy over the conversations I’ve had and the learning I’ve witnessed,” she says.
But being a teacher in the Solomon Islands is not without its quirks. “We don’t rely on computers,” Daly jokes, “they’re temperamental at best.”
The technology may be unreliable and the hours long, but there are poignant moments that make it all worthwhile. “I had one student who was so terrified of speaking in front of the class that he would stammer and fidget his way through presentations. Working slowly, I grabbed every opportunity to celebrate his victories. Then one day, he and his classmates wrote a rap, which they presented at assembly. It was incredible! To see struggling students grow into a place of confidence is more precious than gold. It’s what it’s all about.”
Education is much greater than what happens in class, Daly says. “It has the potential to transform lives. I see it happening around me every day.”