The Republic of Kiribati/Introduction

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The Republic of Kiribati is made up of 3 groups of Islands i) the Gilbert Group to the West, ii) the Line Group to the east, and iii) the Phoenix Group to the South. There are altogether 33 coral islands scattered north and south across the equator and west of the International Dateline. Twenty two of the islands are inhabited. This leaves 11 islands which are not. These are islands in the Phoenix Group. One of them is the New Millenium Island which 'saw' the first sunrise of the new millenium.

The name Gilberts came after one of the discoverers Capt. Gilbert who discovered some of the islands in 1788.

Indigenous Inhabitants

Current theory on the origins of the Gilbertese people is linked to 2 migration waves. The first migrants were part of the general migration from South East Asia through Melanesia. The second came via islands of the Micronesia to the northeast. These are based on evidences including language and useful food and fibre plants which includes coconuts, breadfruits, babai, and pandanus found to be native to South East Asia/Indonesia.

Political Independence

The Republic of Kiribati gained political independence in 1979 after over 40 years of British rule. Based on the West Minister model, with the Beretitenti heading the State and Giovernment of Ministers, as found in Commonwealth Countries, Kiribati emerged a new Nation, in line with a wave of democratic freedom that swept through the Pacific Region in the 1970s.


The majority of the 92,000 I-Kiribati people are micronesians. Around 51 percent of the population is female. The population growth rate is 1.8 percent. The school age population (6-19 years)makes up 33 percent of the population. The life expectancy is 58 years (males) and 62 years for females. The infant mortality rate is 54 per thousand live births.

The Capital - South Tarawa

South Tarawa is one third of Tarawa Island and houses the Capital of Kiribati. It is the only urban part of the Country. All administrative headquarters for government and non-government organisations, social services, media, transport and communication, entertainment, and gateway to the World are situated on South Tarawa. The land mass on South Tarawa is around 16 square kilometeres. Forty four percent of the total population lives on less than 2.2 percent of the total land mass. This makes urban Tarawa densely populated. This large population ratio on South Tarawa puts presssure on social services and natural resources and contributes to health risks, including overcrowding, unemployment, and crime.

People on the Capital

One finds the majority of the working cohort on South Tarawa. The majority of the government employees are non-indigenous to Tarawa. Most of them live in government quarters.Life on the capital is city dorminated, more individualistic, commercial, and culturally misaligned. In urban Tarawa, people maximise personal gains.

Rural Kiribati

32 of the outer islands are separated from Tarawa by sea distances of between 30km (to Abaiang -the nearest island) to 3,000 km - the distance between Tarawa and Tabuaeran island in the east. These 32 islands share 97.8 percent of the land mass in Kiribati. This is the same land mass where 56 percent of the Kiribati population lives on. These 32 islands form the rural sector of Kiribati. Life in the rural sector (outer islands) is structured around subsistence living and community sharing. People in the outer islands are more 'bound' by traditional roles, customs and practices. Family ties are strong and communal norms dominate. On these rural islands people maximize cummunal gain.

History of Formal Education in Kiribati

The start of formal education in Kiribati is related to the arrival of the Missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. One of them is Hiram Bingham. He arrived on Abaiang on the 13th of November 1857. This was a start to two centuries of Christian missionaries work in Kiribati that changed the culture, traditions, customs, and steered the education system away from cultural and traditional modes to a formal and academic system found in existence for over 250 years in Kiribati till today.

The Education System in Kiribati

Preschool for children in the age range preceding primary age of 6 in Kiribati is common though is not state owned nor run. These preschools are privately run and owned. Compulsory and free basic education starts from age 6 in Kiribati. This runs on for 6 years after which students then completes the primary phase. The last three years of basic education is in the junior secondary phase. This junior secondary education is compulsory and free and is offered on individual islands. This completes the 9 year basic education cycle.

Senior secondary education starts at Year 10. This is a 2 year programme that leads to a School Certificate qualification. Students are selected based on merits into senior secondary schools. 23 percent of senior secondary schools are owned by Government. The rest are privately owned by Church Missions in Kiribati.

At the end of school certificate level, the South Pacific Board for Educational Assessment (SPBEA)runs a Year 12 and Year 13 course. The former is equivalent to Foundation Programme at University level. The latter is the terminal point for most of the I-Kiribati student's academic persuits.

After senior secondary, successful students continue to do Science, Arts and Technology courses mainly in Fiji, though some do go to Universities in Australia and New Zealand.

In Kiribati there are i) the Teachers Training College, ii) the School of Nursing, iii) Police Academy, iv) Technical Insitute, v) Marine Training Centre, vi) Fisheries Training Centre, vii)Tangintebu Theological College, and viii) the Christian Inistitute for Christian Development. These are tertiary institutions that offer technical and vocational training for the local needs in Kiribati.