Veronica Kafa, from the British Solomon Islands, was the 1970 recipient of the Winifred Kiek Scholarship of Australian Church Women (ACW). She was 25 years of age, had graduated from the Government Teachers’ College, Honiara, in 1964, and was a member of the Anglican Church.
Her teaching appointment was actually 500 miles away from her home group of islands, as she was based in the Santa Cruz group of islands.
Teaching others, furthering her own education, and living out her Christian faith were very important to Veronica. Her commitment to these pursuits was recognised by those who strongly recommended her for the scholarship. Her supporters were the Anglican Bishop of Melanesia; the Director of Education in the Diocese of Melanesia, Miss Joan Beglen; Mr David Henry, a master at the Peninsula Grammar School who had worked in the Solomons as a volunteer; and Miss Kathleen Holgate, principal of the first co-educational secondary school to be opened in the Solomons. All these people spoke highly of her Christian commitment, her initiative, and her enthusiasm for carrying out her work and accomplishing her goals.
Her focus in teaching was the English language and the curriculum of the new mathematics, but there were communication barriers in the Solomon Islands because 60–70 languages were spoken across the more than 1,000 islands of that archipelago. One language was becoming the common language and that was English, which needed to be taught in the schools, and Veronica wanted to be equipped for this task.
The members of the Victorian Unit of ACW were most fortunate and grateful for the assistance of the Minister for Education in Victoria, Hon. L.H.S. Thompson, for Veronica’s further teacher training. The Minister obtained permission for Mr Allen Humphries, the Director of Migrant Education in Victorian Schools, to supervise Veronica’s training while she was in Australia. Mr Humphries was very interested in assisting Veronica and Australian Church Women, and he had already met Miss Beglen and discussed with her Veronica’s training.
Veronica's itinerary was:
February 3–6, attendance at the 1970 National Committee Meeting of ACW at St Hilda’s College, Parkville, Victoria.
February–August, teaching English as a foreign language with the Education Department of Victoria.
September–November, visits to other states and ACW Units in South Australia, New South Wales, Tasmania and Queensland.
End of November, return of Veronica to the Solomon Islands.
Unfortunately, Veronica was not able to arrive in Australia before the National Committee Meeting of ACW began because she was delayed by the formalities for her health clearance. This was a great disappointment to the members of ACW.
When Veronica did arrive in Melbourne, it was to discover that her luggage had gone astray. It was finally found four weeks later and surprisingly still intact.
Veronica’s accommodation in Victoria was provided by the generosity of the Community of the Sisters of the Church, a religious order of women of the Anglican Church. [Later that year, in 1970, the Community of the Sisters of the Church in Australia was first invited to the Solomon Islands. Three members of this order travelled to Honiara, the capital, and they were in touch with Veronica when she returned home because Veronica was attached to the Anglican Mission at Honiara. This community became an Anglican Province in 2001, and the Solomon Islands-Pacific Province is now the youngest and largest Province in the Community of the Sisters of the Church.]
Veronica was the fifth person to be awarded the Winifred Kiek Scholarship, and there were 24 applicants for 1970. Her application must have been quite impressive.
She was very appreciative of the opportunities the scholarship afforded her in further training and experience as a teacher, as well as being immersed in very different settings by residing and travelling in Australia for ten months. In her report to the ACW, she wrote:
‘First I wish to thank you all Australian Inter-Church Women’s Councils. I thank you all warmly and sincerely for making the Scholarship possible. It is a wonderful “gift” to have. “How can I repay your people, God, for their great deeds, love and prayers for other lands and nations?” My year in Australia has provided me a wider background of my past experiences and future aim.
‘I enjoyed my year in Australia very much, that I will never forget. The knowledge I gained will be a help to my home country by increasing our numbers of educated and trained people in places of special need. Indirectly it has helped me to good relations and understanding between Australia and It will be, to my own country.
‘During my course, visits and travels to schools, friends’ homes and other states of Australia I found that Australians are very friendly and showed greater appreciation of their country and their aspirations. My part I returned to the Solomon Islands with a clearer perception of Australia and of the Australian people.
‘My first impression when I arrived In Melbourne was the heavy traffic, second the people and then the colourful lights of the city. A very busy rushing life. But I managed to be one.’
One thing that her Australian experience impressed upon Veronica was Australian children beginning school at a much younger age than those in the Solomon Islands. She had not started school until she was eleven, and so she was determined to help the young people ‘back home’ to have their schooling available much earlier.
When Veronica returned to her island home, she attended a course for teachers at Tenaru, about ten miles from Honiara. It was arranged by the Education Department for teachers from Guadalcanal Island. Eighty-four teachers were present, and they came from village and district schools. Veronica attended as an observer, but she was asked to take charge of the 25 female teachers. Then she was invited to join the one other staff member at the Hautabu College, the small centre in the Diocese of Melanesia for training teachers. This centre was begun by Joan Beglen; Joan passed away in 1971, after 21 years of serving the Diocese, and Veronica carried on the work.
In 1973, the Education Advisor of the Diocese of Melanesia reported that Veronica had married another teacher and had become Mrs Loe. As Hautabu College was only a short-term measure to improve teaching standards in the Diocese and there were insufficient funds to support the college, the responsibility for improving the teacher training would return to the Government.
In 1974, a member of ACW received news from Veronica that she had an infant son, and she was still teaching.
At this stage, I have not searched past 1974 for further updates on Veronica in the National ACW records.