Tuvalu or previously known as Ellice Islands is one of the smallest and most remote island nations in the world. Tuvalu is situated in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Australia and Hawaii. It lies to the east of Solomon Islands, to the north of Fiji and to the south and southeast of Kiribati. It comprises of six atolls and three reef islands. The islands include Niulakita, Nukulaelae, Funafuti, Nukufetau, Vaitupu, Nui, Niutao, Nanumaga and Nanumea. Tuvalu is the third-least populous sovereign state in the world. Funafuti is the capital of Tuvalu. The name Tuvalu refers to the country’s eight inhabited islands. Tuvalu was named the Ellice Islands in the year 1819 when Edward Ellice, a British Member of Parliament visited the islands of Funafuti. The British colony of Gilbert Islands (Kiribati) and the Ellice Islands were formed in the year 1916, but Ellice Islands demanded for separation from the Gilbert Islands in the year 1974. Ellice Islands became British Colony of Tuvalu in the year 1975 and gained their independence in the following year 1978.

What are the cultures and traditions of Tuvalu?

Tuvalu’s traditional music consists of number of dances that includes fatele, fakanau and fakaseasea. Fatele is the latest and a modern form of dance which is usually performed during community events to celebrate leaders and prominent individuals. Tuvaluan style is generally described as a musical microcosm of Polynesia, where the older style and contemporary co-exist. Each family residing in Tuvalu is assigned to its own tasks like house building, defence or fishing. Skill acquired by the family is passed from parents to children. Majority of the islands have their own shops or fusi which is very similar to a convenient store, where bags of rice or canned foods are made available to people. The goods available are cheaper and the fusis sell their own produce at a much better price. Falekaupule is the traditional island-meeting-hall where important meetings are held and it is also used for ceremonial occasions like wedding, community activities such as fatele that involves dancing and singing. It is also the name of the council of elders who make most of the important decisions on each island. Falekaupule generally means ‘assembly in each island that is composed in accordance with customs and culture of each island’. In Tuvalu the community building and churches are painted with white paint locally termed as lase; it is prepared by burning large amount of dead coral with firewood.

What are the religions that are followed by the people in Tuvalu?

The constitution allows freedom of religion to all the citizens according to their culture and beliefs and the government of Tuvalu respect this right. An approximate of 98.4% of the total population is the member of the Church of Tuvalu which is a Protestant Christian church with a significant minority of Seventh-Day Adventist comprising of 1.4% of the total population, Baha’i at 1% and other indigenous religions account to 0.6% of the total population. Each of the nine islands have traditional chiefs who are the members of Church of Tuvalu. In the capital city of Funafuti a large population of other religions or denominations is found, whereas on Nanumea Island a large population of Baha’i Faith is found. As the constitution allows freedom of religion, missionaries are present and operate freely in Tuvalu. A relatively small number of Muslims, Baptists, Latter-day Saints also found in Tuvalu.

What is the economic structure of Tuvalu?

The people living in the Outer Islands besides Funafuti engage in agriculture, fishing and animal husbandry for subsistence along with craft production that includes mat weaving, house building and repairing, motor and boat maintenance and net mending. In the capital city these activities are no longer carried out by the people as they do not have access to land and the fishing grounds are not easily reachable. Majority of the citizens depend on the salaries of relatives who are employed by the government or by other bureaucratic or commercial organizations. Even some of the residents residing on the Outer Islands receive remittances from their relatives which helps them in purchase of food, clothing and fuel. Only a little part of the produce is sold as surplus production is used to maintain networks of exchange between families or individuals. Over the years, small cottage industries have emerged, they are mostly in production of food stuffs. Some of the industries concentrate on the tiny tourist and export industry, through the sale of woven fans, model canoes and shell necklaces. The principal export of the country is manual labour, as international shipping firms employ the Tuvaluan seamen, whose remittances make an important contribution to the economy

How is the education system in Tuvalu?

After gaining its independence in 1978, Tuvalu adopted the British ‘Education for Life’ program to improve the level of learning in Tuvaluan schools. The British education system prevails in Tuvalu until present day. Attendance is compulsory at both primary and secondary level in schools. The education system of Tuvalu has three stages: Early Childhood Education for age group of 3 to 5 years, Primary School for age group of 6 to 13 years and Secondary School for age group of 14 to 17 years. There are about nineteen Early Childhood Education centres in Tuvalu that provide preschool for children. From the age of six, student enter the primary level covering grades one to seven. There are ten government-run primary schools, one on each of the nine islands and two schools on the island of Vaitupu. After the completion of primary education, the following three years are compulsory within secondary school. There is a single government and a boarding school in Tuvalu with a capacity of 600 students; students come from all of Tuvalu’s nine islands. The residents who wish to take training in teaching are sent to international institutes of higher education. Tuvalu also has three institutions that provide higher education to students: the Technical Education Center that offers training in the building trades, the University of South Pacific Extension Center and the Tuvalu Maritime School. There are many drawbacks in the Tuvalu education system, the primary education has been underfunded for many years. There is shortage of classes, the quality of facilities provided is poor and there is also lack of teaching equipment. A large number of teachers teaching are under trained and their morale is low. The literacy rate is declining over the years, number of dropouts is increasing and the level of non-attendance is comparatively very high.

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