Speaking during the official handing over ceremonies of a two-four classroom blocks each (story) constructed for Gumu and Rara Primary Schools in Big Gella on 3rd & 5th July 2019, the newly elected Premier of Central Province, Hon. Stanley Manetiva, expressed profound appreciation of the efforts of the Provincial Project Team, which included the Provincial Secretary, the Provincial Capacity Development Advisor, Provincial Planning Officers, Provincial Treasury Division Staff and every other staff of Central Provincial Government for their invaluable contribution towards successful implementation of PGSP especially its PCDF Projects in Central Province. The Premier also officially opened the newly completed foot walk bridge constructed by the MEDCM through its CRISP project funded by the World Bank.

Premier for Central Province, Hon. Stanley Manetiva delivering his speech during the official handing over of Gumu class room
Premier for Central Province, Hon. Stanley Manetiva delivering his speech during the official handing over of Gumu class room.

Being his first official engagement outside of Tulagi since he took power a week ago, Premier Manetiva extended his sincere gratitude to the National Government through the Ministry of Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening (MPGIS) especially the Minister, the PS and staff such as the Programme Management of the PGSP who have been coordinating all PCDF projects since inception and providing high profile technical support and capacity building not only to Central Province but also to all Provinces. The Central Province Premier told the gathering that had it not been for this continued technical support, the Province would not have experienced this infrastructural development that has begun to improve the living conditions of our people. The new classroom blocks for both schools especially the remote village of Gumu means a lot to the families who have been finding it so hard to educate their children because of the distance of the nearby mother school at Rove.

PS for MPGIS, Mr. Stanley D Pirione delivering his speech at Rara village during joint handing over of a classroom and foot walk bridge
PS for MPGIS, Mr. Stanley D Pirione delivering his speech at Rara village during joint handing over of a classroom and foot walk bridge

Premier Manetiva’s speech was applauded by hundreds of people and invited guests who have trekked the bushes and paddled from nearby villages to witness the handing over of Gumu classroom block, Rara four classroom block and the foot walk bridge constructed by the MEDCM through their World Bank project of CRISP.

PS for MECCDM Dr. Melchior Mataki delivering his speech during a joint program to officially hand over a classroom funded by PCDF under PGSP in MPGIS through Central Provincial Government, and a 40m foot walk bridge funded by CRCDRP (CRISP).
PS for MECCDM Dr. Melchior Mataki delivering his speech during a joint program to officially hand over a classroom funded by PCDF under PGSP in MPGIS through Central Provincial Government, and a 40m foot walk bridge funded by CRCDRP (CRISP).

Looking back at the efforts made by the Central Province in infrastructure delivery, the Hon. Premier informed the people of Gella that since the inception of the PCDF in 2008/9 Central Province had successfully implemented 288 projects at a cost of $21.4M. The Premier highlighted that in 2017/18 FY Central Province completed 16 out of its 19 projects which catered for 95% of the total cost of PCDF allocated to CPG in that FY. He said in 2018/9 FY to date CPG had completed 11 projects including three projects that were carried forward from previous year catering for more than 85% of total approved PCDF for the current FY. The Premier stated that these records are indeed historic considering the state of the provincial governments 10 years. For this kind of achievement to be made, the provincial government and the PGSP officials (coordinated by the MPGIS) must have made a lot of personal sacrifices and efforts. He commended the efforts of all key players in the PCDF for delivery the right infrastructures that shall promote not only education but also boost the economic activites in Central Province. 

(L-R) Gumu Rep, PS MPGIS, Hon. Premier Central, and PS Central after cutting of ribbon and subsequent handing over of keys.
(L-R) Gumu Rep, PS MPGIS, Hon. Premier Central, and PS Central after cutting of ribbon and subsequent handing over of keys.

On the foot walk bridge funded by the CRISP project of the MEDCM, the Premier lauded the project as very useful and timely. He said the foot walk bridge will save lot of lives within the community and it shall indeed help commuters. During the rains, he said, the school children and the members of the community find it extremely difficult to cross over to the other side of the school ground. This difficulties, he said has now been alleviated. The Premier thanked all those who contributed to the successfully completion of the foot walk bridge particularly engineers. 

(l-R) Contractor, PS MECCDM, MPA, PS MPGIS, Hon. Premier Central Province, Village Chief, & Rara Head Master during cutting of ribbon and handing over of keys to the classrooms.
(l-R) Contractor, PS MECCDM, MPA, PS MPGIS, Hon. Premier Central Province, Village Chief, & Rara Head Master during cutting of ribbon and handing over of keys to the classrooms.

“Honourable Premier and the good people of Central Province especially Gumu and Rara, today’s occasion truly reflects the support that CPG and National Gov’t has for our social and education sector. We will continue to work together as we did with the previous government and continue to help you serve our people from this Province. The Government will still continue to provide what it is mandated to do thru the provisions of its infrastructure development programs, either thru our Ministry or thru other sectoral Ministries. The National Government still commit itself with the provision of PCDF funding to help Provincial Governments implement projects of their choices, and help enhance connections with the rural communities through the building of infrastructures such as these” PS Pirione stated. 

(L-R) Rara rep, Director MoFT, PS MECCDM, Premier Central, Ward Member, & PS MPGIS cutting ribbon to signify official opening of the Rara foot walk bridge.
(L-R) Rara rep, Director MoFT, PS MECCDM, Premier Central, Ward Member, & PS MPGIS cutting ribbon to signify official opening of the Rara foot walk bridge.

Mr. Stanley Pirione informed the crowd and the visiting Provincial Guests and Villagers that Central Province took first position amongst the nine Provinces in 2016/7 and 2017/18 PCDF Assessment of the Minimum Qualifying Conditions and Performance Measures. The year the Province scores 72 points out of 100 an there are indications that the Province may do even better with the support of the current executive. As a result of its efforts in the recent assessment, the PS announced that Central Province shall receive about SBD5.1millio from the Ministry through the PCDF to implement its most critical projects.

Some of the Central Province MPAs, Executive Members, and Guests during the joint official handing over of classroom and foot Walk Bridge at Rara village.
Some of the Central Province MPAs, Executive Members, and Guests during the joint official handing over of classroom and foot Walk Bridge at Rara village.

The MPGIS PS informed the Premier, invited guests and the villagers, men women and children that it was because of the sheer hard work of the Ministry, the Provinces, especially Central Province that the children of Gumu and Rara and nearby villages will now be able to sit and learn comfortably in a permanent class rooms closer to their home village. The children of Gumu may not have travel afar anymore by paddling for many hours to attend. He stressed that the level of commitment in terms of accountability and transparent practices advocated by the PCDF mechanism, has now attracted a lot of support from outside donors. He said the Ministry is discussing with donors who are willing to put in more resources to support the Provincial Governments as a direct result of the efforts and accountability that is enshrined in the performance-based grant system of PCDF. 

Gumu Primary School old classroom.
Gumu Primary School old classroom.
Gumu Primary School four block, two storey classroom.
Gumu Primary School four block, two storey classroom.

The event at Rara on 5th July was extra ordinary in that unlike Gumu the local organising committee decided to have a single programme that featured handing over of two projects by two Ministries. The Ministry of Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening (MPGIS) that hosts the PGSP with its PCDF, and the Ministry of Environment Climate Change and Disaster Management (MECCDM) that hosts the Community Resilience to Climate & Disaster Risk Project under the Coral Reef Initiative for the South Pacific (CRISP). The MPGIS with the CPG were handed over a four classroom block at Rara whilst the MECCDM were handed over a foot walk bridge. 

Rara Primary School old classroom.
Rara Primary School old classroom.
Rara Primary School, four block two Storey Classroom.
Rara Primary School, four block two Storey Classroom.

In his short remarks at the handing over ceremony, the Permanent Secretary of the MECCDM, Dr. Melchior Mataki, spoke highly of the joint handing over programme as no mere co -incidence as he is also a member of the Joint Oversight Committee of the PCDF that makes important decisions that impact on the nine Provinces including Central Province. He cited the grant performance model of the PCDF as the best in the Solomon Islands because it does not only deliver solid and tangible infrastructure but it builds provincial capacities for sustained accountability and transparency. On the foot walk bridge and the new classrooms, the PS MEDCM appealed to the villagers to take care of the infrastructures as the materials are very costly to acquire and construct. Dr. Mataki announced that his Ministry is currently discussing the next phase of CRISP but he would like the second phase to be anchored on the Provincial Capacity Development Fund of PCDF of PGSP for the provinces to deliver. 

The PS MEDCM concluded his remarks by urging the community of Rara that it is now their responsibility to protect and maintain the school classrooms and the foot walk bridge so that they would be better utilised for some long period of time. 

Guests walking on Rara village foot walk bridge after the official opening.
Guests walking on Rara village foot walk bridge after the official opening.

Speaking in appreciation of the new classrooms in Gumu, Central Provincial Education Authority Inspectorate, Mrs. Ethel Sulu stated that her department is indeed indebted to the MPGIS and Central Province for the PCDF which has provided funds for the building of the classrooms. She said with the new class rooms, Gumu will certainly experience increase in their enrolments. Mrs Ethel announced that Gumu will now be featured in Central Province’s school development plans and budget. She assured the community that they will post additional trained teachers to Gumu. Like other guests who spoke before her, she also called on students, teachers and the communities to respect the buildings and take good great care of them.

Officers of the MECCDM who are with the CRCDRP (CRISP).
Officers of the MECCDM who are with the CRCDRP (CRISP).
Central Provincial Treasurer, and other invited guests having a chat during joint official handing over of Rara classrooms and foot Walk Bridge.
Central Provincial Treasurer, and other invited guests having a chat during joint official handing over of Rara classrooms and foot Walk Bridge.

Representatives from both villages outlined the histories of the schools with Rara being featured as one of the oldest in Gella that has produced leaders in all works of life whilst Gumu is being considered as one of the least developed schools because of its isolation. The school is located right in the middle of Big Gella and is always being quite often neglected and ignored. The Chiefs of both villages stated that the new class room blocks and foot walk bridge, have brought the SIG and their Provincial Government close to them.

Gumu Community presenting gifts to the guests.
Gumu Community presenting gifts to the guests.

The class rooms and foot walk bridge handing over were indeed remarkable as the communities put a lot of effort working together that resulted in the celebration of the achievement with feasting, dancing and singing. It was indeed a lasting experience as guest were endowed with floral garlands, treated with a community feast, and presented with traditional shell money and live pigs. 

Guadalcanal girls that are based in Tulagi providing entertainment at Rara.
Guadalcanal girls that are based in Tulagi providing entertainment at Rara.

Central Provincial Government has been implementing PCDF projects in different sectors since 2008 at the inception of the PGSP and every year many projects are being completed and handed over either by the Ministry to the Province or the Province to the sectoral authority or in some cases the community. There is always this sense of commitment for public celebrating, exchange of gifts, feasting and most importantly hearing of the speeches delivered by government officials. One of the villagers who spoke on the condition of anonymity stated that having handover programs is the wish of the people and it is one way to bring the government officials to the people. 

Amongst the distinguished invited guests to the official handing over ceremonies at Gumu and Rara Classrooms, was a delegation of the MPGIS led by its Permanent Secretary Mr. Stanley D Pirione and PGSP Programme Management Expert Mr. Momodou Lamin Sawaneh. The Permanent Secretary, Dr Mataki, and his high powered delegation from the MEDCM and lot of provincial officials including the former PS of Isabel, Mr Selwyn Vasuni who hails from that region of Big Gella. 

Siakole youth dancers putting on entertainment at Rara.
Siakole youth dancers putting on entertainment at Rara.

Getting to Gumu is via Nata passage along the Aviavi coastline through a river right to the interior and heart of Big Gella. Getting there was interesting and fascinating as the OBMs zig zagged the meanderings of the river from its mangrove plugged mouth through thick shallow muddy leeway that one had to occasionally negotiate by disembarking from the fibro banana boats, drag them along to some depths and embark again to repeat the whole process until the river becomes so narrow for the boats to be pushed along. Another two hundred meters walk gets you to Gumu, the heart and soul of Gella Sule where PCDF braved, dared, and cared building a class room for the most isolated community in Central Province. Whereas for Rara, it’s between Borohinamba and Vura, right in front of Anuha island, North of Big Gella.

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