With the guidance of her Women's Leadership Initiative (WLI) mentor, Dr Jan Edwards, Samantha Kusari is establishing a reading project that aims to improve literacy rates in remote Papua New Guinea.
Through the WLI Leadership & Mentoring program, Jan is helping Samantha to launch a small library for the local preschool in her home village of Yagusa, in the Okapa District of Eastern Highlands Province, as well as a reading program for four-to-eight-year-old children.
Samantha – who is currently on-Award completing her Master of Education and Cognitive Psychology at Flinders University – hopes the project will be a step in the right direction towards closing the literacy gap in remote Papua New Guinea communities.
Jan is a gender equality and social inclusion specialist who designs, implements and evaluates strategies for diverse cultural contexts and has worked across Asia, the Pacific Islands and the Caribbean.
According to Samantha, “Jan is a great mentor” who is providing project advice, relevant connections, and opportunities for professional development.
“She connected me with a preschool in Adelaide called Reynella South Preschool, where I am currently doing an internship,” says Samantha.
“By working with the school, I am exposed to what I can take with me to implement my project.”
The school is also donating books and tools to assist Samantha with her reading project.
In terms of the project need, Samantha describes a growing rate of illiteracy in Papua New Guinea, especially in remote communities.
The literacy rate for Papua New Guinea currently sits at around 62%, with the highest levels of illiteracy located in remote and rural areas. A recent study also confirmed only 23.7% of Grade 5 students in Papua New Guinea reached the expected proficiency level for literacy, significantly lower than in other Pacific Island countries*.
“I became interested in literacy while working for a non-profit organisation that promoted literacy in rural areas ... I noticed the significant literacy gap in remote communities in Papua New Guinea and the need to close it,” Samantha says.
“Literacy is fundamental to the development of the country because in today's changing society, citizens need to be literate to make informed decisions,” says Samantha.
Samantha explains that despite Papua New Guinean women, past and present, having greatly contributed to the advancement of literacy in the country, the “literacy gap” is still a long way from being closed.
“I believe women in Papua New Guinea have more power to eliminate this gap, provided they receive support.”
“I 'aspire to inspire' where and when I can, and WLI is playing a tremendous role in providing leadership skills through its coaching and mentoring programs,” she adds.
* Education Sector Implementation Grant and Multiplier (in BEST PNG,2019).