The Future is Equal


Youth Challenge Vanuatu launches E-learning pilot to support youth during disasters and beyond

It is a familiar conundrum around the world during the coronavirus pandemic – students crammed into home offices or at the kitchen table, adapting to the strange new reality of learning online and communicating with classmates and teachers solely through a screen.

For many young students in Vanuatu, getting an education online is an unfeasible or unaffordable luxury. But with the help of generous donors, Upskill People and Digicel, and supported by Oxfam, Youth Challenge Vanuatu (YCV) is helping young people in the island country to take their learning online. 

The pilot programme, launched in May, provided students with free mobile data, access to computers at the training centre, and free online courses. The aim of the pilot was to find ways to improve flexibility and accessibility for young people wanting to gain new skills and knowledge. This will be especially useful in the aftermath of a  natural disaster, when classroom learning is not an option.

Youth Challenge Vanuatu student Glenda Mass uses the e-learning platform from Upskill. Photo: Lillyrose Welwel/Youth Challenge Vanuatu

Upskill People, a UK-based company who create and deliver online learning courses for businesses and individuals, were fundamental in the experiment. For the pilot they provided free access to five courses from their library, all of which had online quizzes. Courses included food sales and service, food hygiene, and understanding depression. With this generous donation, Youth Challenge Vanuatu and its pilot students could identify challenges and opportunities for making more online learning available from people’s phones or home computers in the future.

In total, 47 students participated in the first pilot programme delivered by Youth Challenge Vanuatu. Selected students were given free access to online training resources for an eight-week trial period. They could then log in to their personal Upskill People online account and study anytime, anywhere and on any device. Digicel’s contribution of free internet data meant the students could stream online videos and other training content from their personal phones or tablets.

Youth Challenge Vanuatu student Glenda Mass uses the e-learning platform from Upskill. Photo: Lillyrose Welwel/Youth Challenge Vanuatu

Youth Challenge Vanuatu student Glenda Mass uses the e-learning platform from Upskill. Photo: Lillyrose Welwel / Youth Challenge Vanuatu 

Data from the pilot showed it was a great success:


·       100% said they learned skills they could use

·       96% found the course easy to use

·       100% said the enjoyed learning in this way


It is clear there is a lot of potential in this new approach for YCV. The organisation currently provides a suite of courses and assistance for job-seeking, employment and life skills, and entrepreneurship to disadvantaged youth, with life-changing results. By using a well-curated menu of online resources, more students can access  training, with more flexibility via a mix of taught and self-paced options, and students can take greater control of their own learning pace. Armed with the learnings of this initial pilot, YCV is moving forward in the hope that more ni-Vanuatu youth will soon be able to sign up for further online learning journeys.

Oxfam has been working with YCV for over ten years to improve access to life-changing training and courses for Vanuatu youth. This pilot took place as part of a five-year project to lift the quality of YCV’s training and mentoring and the sustainability of this unique organisation, funded by Oxfam and the New Zealand Aid Programme.

Oxfam coordinates response to tropical cyclone Harold

Oxfam teams in the Pacific are working with partner agencies and governments in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands, to plan a response to Tropical Cyclone Harold.

The Category 5 cyclone, made landfall in Santo and Malo islands in Vanuatu’s northern Sanma Province this morning local time and the slow-moving storm is now moving into the Penama and Malampa Provinces. The three provinces have a population of 127,000 people, many of whom are considered high risk as their very livelihoods depend on their food and vegetable gardens. 

Heavy rainfall and gale force winds are expected to cause damages to homes, buildings and flooding to low lying areas and river banks.

Oxfam in Vanuatu’s Country Director, Elizabeth Faerua reported that teams are on standby as the country braces for the impact of what is believed to be one of the worse storms since Tropical Cyclone Pam in 2015 devastated the country.

“There are reports of damaging gale force winds, heavy rainfall and flooding in low lying areas of Luganville, the second largest town in Vanuatu, and the power lines and communications lines in the north are currently down,” Mrs Faerua said. 

“We are collaborating with our local partners and working with the National Disaster Management Office, Provincial Governments and Area Councils to respond accordingly.” 

Oxfam will conduct a remote survey across all the provinces to better assess and identify a suitable response to support income and livelihoods of vulnerable households across Vanuatu.

Since Cyclone Harold’s departure from the Solomon Islands a day ago, the response in that country has been immediate, with local and international organisations responding to Government’s call for assistance.

This has been confirmed by Oxfam in Solomon Islands Country Director, Dolores Devesi, who has said our teams are already working along-side Government and sector committees in coordinating multi-agency assessments and responses.

The Oxfam Pacific team continues to engage at all levels; national and provincial governments, and with the communities, to coordinate thorough assessments on the ground, which will drive our response. 


Oxfam monitoring Cyclone Donna: latest news

UPDATE: 12:00pm 09/05/2017

An update has been sent out from Oxfam’s regional office in Vanuatu.

The worst affected people are those in the Torba province. Oxfam in Vanuatu have decided to partner with the Vanuatu Red Cross and distribute Oxfams’ hygiene kits and seeds to get crops going again.

A response focusing on the Shefa province could go ahead. If required, Oxfam could be able to provide or assist with the following:

  • Provision of clean water, hygiene kits, hygiene educatoin workshops and assistance with the rebuilding of water sources
  • Cash vouchers to ensure people have a means of getting food
  • Livelihood recovery support
  • Ensuring all community members are safe and have access to service, especially women, youth, people with disabilities and LGBTI+
  • Promoting equal decision making between women and men
  • Supporting our five local partners

UPDATE: 8:30am 09/05/2017

TC Donna has weakened to a Category 4 storm overnight.

It continued on its south-easterly path. The country’s capital, Port Vila, felt some affects although wasn’t majorly impacted.

According to Radio New Zealand, TC Donna is packing winds of around 265 kilometres per hour, and hospitals in Vanuatu are preparing to receive anyone who may have been injured during the cyclone.

UPDATE: 2:00pm 08/05/2017

TC Donna has been upgraded to a Category 5 storm. 

A cyclone warning is current in Sanma, Penama, Malampa and Shefa provinces.

Red alerts are current for Sanma and Malampa provinces, a yellow alert is current for Shefa province, and a blue alert is current for Tafea province. 

UPDATE: 1:00pm 08/05/2017

Late season Tropical Cyclone Donna is now a Category 4 storm. Heavy rain and strong winds are battering parts of the island nation.

TC Donna crossed Torres Island (population 800) in the Torba province as a Category 3 storm on Friday, gusting 203km/h winds.

Destructive winds are affecting Sanma, Penama and Malampa provinces, and Shefa province has been issued a yellow alert as heavy rainfall and damaging winds reach the area.

Some low-lying communities, including in the capital Port Vila, have been victim to severe flash-flooding.

A preliminary impact report from Oxfam in Vanuatu says that the northernmost Torba province is the most affected. Four islands in the province, Loh, Hui, Tegua and Toga, have been rapidly assessed and the initial findings are:

  • A significant number of houses are destroyed, and a majority are badly damaged
  • Almost everyone on Loh are in evacuation centres, which includes schools, a cave and a police station
  • On other islands, people were evacuated to strong houses
  • There is enough water for everyone, but it is likely contaminated
  • Of the communities contacted, all gardens were severly damaged
  • The food supply could be enough for two-three weeks
  • All toilet facilities have been destroyed
  • The health facility in Loh is functional
  • No injury or health issues reported

Currently, TC Donna is moving south over the ocean between Vanuatu and New Caledonia, and is expected to hit the south-east caost of New Caledonia tomorrow night at 6pm. However – the path of the system may change at any time.

Latest updates from Fiji’s Meteorological Service.

Thumbnail image: The current wind forecast map (GFS) showing Donna. Fiji east, New Caledonia south, Vanuatu south east of Donna. /

Shanine’s Poultry Farm

It’s not uncommon for children in Vanuatu to stop attending school at 10 years old – there are not enough secondary school places due to government budget constraints, and many families can’t afford the school fees. At whatever age these young people leave school, their job prospects are often very limited.

Oxfam has been partnering with Rural Training Centres (RTCs) and the Farm Support Association (FSA) in Vanuatu to give young people a chance at learning a variety of skills to make them employable, equip them to start their own businesses, and give them a good shot at earning an income.

Meet Shanine Natiang. She’s from Tanna, an island in southern Vanuatu. Her life was turned around in 2013 when she applied for the Vanuatu Young Farmers Development Course in the Napil Rural Training Centre.

Shanine’s primary level education was cut short when she fell extremely ill for several weeks. She eventually recovered enough to return to school, but decided against going back and to help her parents at home instead.

“I fell ill for some weeks so I did not want to go back to school after the illness had left me, I felt that I wasn’t learning much at school and it was a waste of time, so I chose to stay at home and help look after my younger siblings”.

In 2013, after some encouragement from her father, she applied for the Vanuatu Young Farmers Development Course and was accepted. She received training in horticulture and livestock management and learned the most effective way to produce sustainable and fruitful crops in her local environment. During the course she also gained valuable gardening skills in crop conservation, garden restoration and maintenance, and landscape garden design.

Poultry farming on Tanna is an increasingly popular small-scale business, and a lot of Shanine’s training involved learning how to farm poultry effectively to get the best results. She put her skills to use and started her own poultry farming business to earn an income to support herself and her family. After her first year of training she received 40 chicks, chicken feed, wire mesh and two tarpaulins from the Farm Support Association (FSA). She maintained her poultry farm and made VT60,000 by selling each rooster for VT1,500.

Shanine’s story is a success. She learned how to effectively maintain a sustainable business, and the training programme utilised the resources available in Shanine’s environment, creating a business that works in her local context.

Shanine is now able to support herself and her family, whilst still saving some money.

“Not all of us can be smart in primary and secondary schools. I may not be good at formal school but I am good in farming and gardening. I can now combine what I learned as I grew up with what I’m learning in the trainings. I feel like I now have a positive future.”

“I am young but I am thinking more maturely than my friends. While some kids my age are just hanging in the gardens, I’m learning how to make money from it.”

Shanine has set her goal to become one of the successful female poultry farmers in her village. Now in her last year of training, other young people in Shanine’s village are seeing her tremendous progress and they are eager to join the program. 32 other young women and men are enrolled alongside Shanine at the Napil RTC, and from 2017, Vaiduhu RTC on Malo Island will also begin offering the Young Farmers Development Course.

“I can’t wait to graduate. FSA and the Napil RTC has supported me a lot, I will use the resources and skills I’ve gained to build a good future for myself and my family. I am on my way to being a successful farmer and have no doubts that I will be one of the best on Tanna”.

Since Cyclone Pam in 2015, Oxfam has been helping to rebuild classrooms and dormitories in RTCs on Tanna, Epi and Malekula Islands. Many families in Vanuatu struggle to keep their children in school as it’s too expensive, but many RTCs in Vanuatu accept in kind payment with kava, pigs or cows rather than regular fees so more families can afford it. Through the courses at the RTCs in Vanuatu, students can learn practical skills such as health and sanitation, home economics, small business management, legal rights, agriculture, mechanics and carpentry – all skills that can ensure a better, bright future for these young people.