FEATURE STORY

Voice of Conflict: Patterson Sikua's Story from Solomon Islands

November 1, 2016

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Patterson Sikua, 25, in his bedroom hut in New Kollina, a small settlement outside Honiara only accessible by foot. Patterson looks over study notes from his degree in geography. Patterson hopes to finish his university degree in geography, although he is worried about not being able to pay the tuition fees. Patterson is a participant in the World Bank-supported Rapid Employment Project, which provides life skills training to increase employability, and create short-term jobs through the building and maintenance of community infrastructure.

© World Bank / Alana Holmberg

Solomon Islander Patterson Sikua vividly remembers the day that The Tensions came to his community. He was a Grade Six student in Kollina, a village in the remote Weathercoast region on the south side of Guadalcanal Island.

Ethnic conflict between Guadalcanal and Malaitan militants already prevented villagers from traveling to other markets to sell produce, and caused shortages of medicines and vaccinations. On that particular morning, he heard gunfire.

“I thought my life would end. I thought if I stayed, the bullet would hit me,” Patterson said. “I stood up, ran away and hid behind a tree. I didn’t go back to school for at least a year. It took six to seven months for me to stop feeling frightened. My fear of violence was always there. It created a lot of stress and anxiety.”

The five-year conflict finally ended in 2003 with an international intervention, and Patterson’s life changed again.

Like many people from remote, rural areas across Solomon Islands, he moved to Honiara, the capital, for better education opportunities. Initially he worked at a palm oil plantation to fund his school fees, and then his parents were able to pay for the completion of his high-school certificate.


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A public performance by Honiara-based community drama group. In addition to his pre-employment training, Patterson participates in this new component of the REP program. Along with a small group, Patterson uses theatre to raise awareness about keeping Honiara clean in a awareness and outreach program run by Solomon Islands Development Trust.

© World Bank / Alana Holmberg

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© World Bank / Alana Holmberg

Patterson went on to study environmental science and also started a geography degree at Solomon Islands National University. After one year, though, he dropped out because he couldn’t afford the fees.

Unlike other unemployed young men unable to find work, Patterson’s passion for the environment and protecting the natural resources of the Solomon Islands brought a different opportunity. He participates in a youth drama group that give free public performances in Honiara to spread “reduce, reuse, recycle” messages.

Patterson joined the group through his involvement in the World Bank-funded Rapid Employment Project (REP), which helps vulnerable young people increase their qualifications for employment. Patterson got a 150-day employment contract arranged through REP, along with additional experience from the drama program to add to his resume in a competitive job market.

Eventually, he hopes to enroll in university again to get his environmental degree.

“There is lots of competition now and not enough jobs,” he said. “When someone like me wants to apply, it will be hard to get a job, even though I understand what’s needed in the job. I believe my bachelor’s degree will help me.”

Today Patterson lives in a small settlement outside of Honiara called New Kollina. It is inaccessible by car and has no electricity or running water. Yet despite the harsh conditions, he believes he is on the right path.

“The Rapid Employment Project helps people by giving them some basic skills that they can use to help sell goods at the market. It also provides temporary work such as street cleaning or cleaning town,” he said. “It doesn’t last long, but it gives them the experience that can help them get a job with other projects. For me and others in the community drama group, it helps a bit in providing work, but it’s not permanent.”

Noting the large number of people in the Solomon Islands from age 14 to 29, he said every advantage counts.

“We will compete to find money or jobs. We will compete for settlement for land. People will struggle to put children through school because there’ll be struggle for money,” said Patterson. “I must get qualification so that I can get a good job. That will keep me engaged so that I won’t be involved in trouble.”






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