“Though weak political leadership has never really succeeded in forming a single national identity out of this diverse archipelago, the various churches have done a lot for local people. Diversity goes hand-in-hand with tolerance here, so schools, hospitals and churches have been established through inter-faith cooperation.
Linguistically, the many peoples of these islands communicate with one another using pidgin English, a simpler version which bears little relation to standard English in either vocabulary or pronunciation. This form of English is not taught in schools, but it’s used in everyday life for communication among the inhabitants of the various islands. This common language and history, as well as a generally inclusive attitude as bought with it, if not a shared identity, at least a form of camaraderie. It also has a name – wantokism – which comes from the words ‘one talk’.
The most important institution for Solomon Islanders is the extended family. Since the direct, nuclear family is also part of this, it goes without saying that parents, siblings and so on are extremely important, but strong bonds also hold together a much wider network of relations. Anyone not belonging to such an extended family is automatically a black sheep, and no greater loss can be imagined than to be cut off from such a family.
To this end, children learn their first lesson right at birth. This is when the first message, or lesson, is given: that the newborn has arrived In a safe, warm family environment.
Children perceive from an early age that they are part of an extended family, where there are far more of what they would consider ‘family members’ than we are accustomed to in the West. It is primarily the task of the parents is to take case of the little ones, but a host of close relatives also help out. It is important that young children spend as little time as possible during these years in the company of strangers. Only when they can speak, and think independently, are they ever left alone.
While changes in the world have let to a modernization of both everyday life and the education system, and literacy has become much more important, children also learn a great deal in the home. There they are taught to pay attention, and to speak only when asked. Little girls are praised when they act like their mother, and boys when they act like their father. If a child does something bad it is the parents who feel ashamed, and if the child behaves well then the parents are praised.
In this traditional society, the roles of men and women, and an upbringing which prepares them for these roles, are highly emphasized. Household management and the cultivation of the garden are women’s responsibilities, while men are engaged in logging, canoeing, fishing and hunting.
Nowadays, as they find themselves increasingly hemmed in by the Western lifestyle, and receive a fuller education, these boundaries have begun to blur, but even today, a boy is considered a man if he can build a house, a canoe and a garden. A girl is considered a woman if she can cultivate a garden, cut down a tree, fetch water, and take care of the family even when her mother is not present.
This picture of a traditional society is darkened by the prevalence of discrimination against women and girls – women are generally given subordinate roles. There are relatively few girls in elementary education, and almost none in high school. Needless to say, this lack of education brings with it many health and social problems, such as poverty, child labor and abuse, teenage pregnancy and marriage, STDs, alcohol and drug use, etc.” (2017)