AFTER 16 months in office, Marshall Islands President Hilda C. Heine has a busy schedule. On the international stage, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) has been active in global negotiations on climate change and nuclear weapons. But with key funding ending in 2023 under the current Compact of Free Association with the United States, the RMI government faces difficult financial decisions to maintain health, education and welfare programs.
As the first woman elected as leader of an independent Pacific island nation, Heine has a full agenda. Early in her career, she worked as Secretary of Education and has a lifelong involvement in education policy. The first Marshallese woman to gain a Ph.D., Heine also worked in Honolulu with Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL), a non-profit organisation that works across Micronesia to promote “strong schools, healthy communities, and thriving cultures with Pacific hearts and global minds”.
In government, Heine sees education as a central focus for community improvement and government action. “Education is something that I do on a daily basis, improving the education of our people,” she told Islands Business. “We look at other small countries in the world that have been able to thrive because their people are educated and have the skills necessary to move their country forward. That’s what we hope to be able to do – to educate all our people and get them to the level that can sustain them.”
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