“They do not feel our feelings of sorrow for losing our land”: The picturesque and the precarious in Kiribati

“They do not feel our feelings of sorrow for losing our land”: The picturesque and the precarious in Kiribati

With Sr Maata, Immaculate Heart College – Taborio, Kiribati

As Principal of Immaculate Heart College, a boarding school on the Pacific island nation of Kiribati, Sr Maata is acutely aware of the challenges in providing a quality education while mitigating the impact of climate change. Though she admires the school’s stunning surrounds, it is bordered by the Pacific on three sides, she has shared her concerns for it’s future.

In addition to her role as leader of the school, and the usual administrative burdens school Principals face, Sr Maata is responsible for ensuring the students have a school building to return to following extreme weather events.

“At present our seawall is very much affected by the sea current and wind.  The seawall has been eroded when there is a King Tide with wind.  It is a great problem for all of us as we cannot stop this problem except to spend many thousands of dollars which is another issue as we do not have this much cash on hand.”

The school relies on solar power, provided by panels that are ubiquitous on Taborio and across Kiribati.

“Right on the seawall is the school’s solar panels. About 50 of them run the school power daily for a few hours.  We depend very much on these solar panels.”

But Sr Maata knows that environmental sustainability is not something the school can achieve alone. Despite being avid adopters of renewable energy, with plans to increase the number of solar panels to achieve the goal of 24/7 electricity in 2021, without similar enthusiasm for renewables from larger economies the lives of the iKiribati are becoming more difficult.

“It is so sad to live in a place such as Kiribati with this new era. It brings uncomfortable lives for us because of other, bigger countries with their experiments and who knows what else. “

When she hears talk of relocation for island communities affected by climate change, Sr Maata believes such solutions are apathetic to the experiences of local communities.

“They hear of our present situation but they do not feel our feelings of sorrow for losing our land of birth, where we grew up and where our hearts are.  Migration for us is not worth it, we’re not paying the price of our own home.”


To assist Sr Maata in strengthening the capacity of Immaculate Heart College to respond to the challenges facing the school community, help us to recruit a School Nurse who will provide first aid training and provide education to combat lifestyle diseases.