Yipirinya school, a model for two-way learning PDF Print E-mail

Mr Langford-Smith credits Federal Government funding accessed through the National Indigenous Education Literacy and Numeracy Program, with allowing the school to run its Language and Culture Centre. This unit and the resources produced are crucial to the task of teaching the four languages at Yipirinya —Western Arrernte, Central Arrernte, Luritje and Warlpiri.

The school was founded in 1978 through the initiative of the Indigenous members of the local community. It is proudly promoted as the "true School of Alice Springs - It goes back to the Caterpillar Dreamtime." Funded by the Commonwealth Government,Yipirinya is totally independent and is managed by an Indigenous Council of Life Members and community members who represent most local language groups. The expertise of the community Elders provides a wealth of knowledge to assist the teachers and staff at Yipirinya.

While literacy and numeracy are taught according the Northern Territory curriculum, Yipirinya offers bi-lingual and bi-cultural education through the employment of language teachers and literacy workers. These staff follow the themes of the regular class teachers, and reinforce the lessons in appropriate ways.

An important aspect of education for the children at Yipirinya are the visits to country, rounding out cultural education. These can range in length from one day during the busy terms to a full week at the end of the year.

On a day to day basis, buses are provided to transport the children to and from school, and healthy breakfasts, recess and lunch meals provided for all the children through its Health and Nutrition Program. Medical support is also offered three days a week.

The school last year established a full secondary class for the first time, with small numbers but high commitment.

Both student numbers and attendance rates are growing consistently, with the average attendance rate of 47% in 2002 jumping to over 60% in 2004.

The school is keen to engage with other language programs in the Territory, sharing resources and discussing initiatives to attract funding for language programs. One such workshop is the Warlpiri Triangle, which is held annually for Warlpiri teachers and Elders from Yuendumu, Nyirrpi, Lajamanu,Willowra and others with similar programs. Workshops such as these are aimed at offering support for the two-way education programs, allowing language workers to develop a common Warlpiri curriculum.

Mr Langford-Smith cites one of the problems identified in attracting and maintaining adequate funding, as the policy of the Northern Territory Government to link financial allocations with attendances at the school. This presents difficulties with a highly mobile population, particularly as is the case in the area around Alice Springs. The Principal would like to see more networking between education centres in the Territory, and would support the concept of conferencing to update programs, skills and resource development.