Education is the only chance Papua New Guineans have of breaking the shackles of international aid donors and taking ownership of their own destiny.

Unfortunately the system does not have the resources to meet the most basic demands. According to PNG Department of Education supply and demand projections for 2006 there will be 1,707,677 students seeking enrolment this year but only 908,096 places available – a shortfall of 799,581 or 46.8 per cent!

Of more concern for the immediate future is the situation for year 11 and 12 students. According to the Departments figures there will be 244,613 students competing for 16,060 places – a shortfall of 600 per cent!

Responsibility for education PNG was transferred from National to Provincial Governments in 1978. Inefficiencies and corruption within these decentralised systems have been well documented over the years and the quality of education has diminished to the extent that Papua New Guinea’s educational enrolments are now among the lowest in Asia. The rate of attrition and dropouts at primary level is exceptionally high at 40 per cent.

Whilst a few government schools are doing their best to cope students seeking a quality education are advised to seek placements in independent schools run by churches or private boards.

Our experience with government schools in Central and Oro Provinces over the past few years supports this advice. We were unable to develop an objective merit-based selection process for students or a system to prevent those we did select from being substituted by other ‘wan-toks’. We also found it difficult to communicate with schools as lines are often down; fax machines are unserviceable and progressive school reports were almost impossible to obtain.

We therefore sought an independent school with professional management, proper governance and the capacity to adopt a scholarship program for Koiari and Orokaiva students from Central and Oro Provinces.

The Port Moresby Grammar School was recommended to us.  This is an independent International School for students in the Nation’s capital. It offers high quality and relevant education in a caring and disciplined environment, which will prepare children for life in Port Moresby or anywhere else in the world.

The school follows a variety of curricula to cater for varying needs of students.

In the Junior School the curriculum is drawn from the best features of the PNG, International Educational Academy and overseas programs. It has been developed specifically to meet the needs of PNG students.

In the Senior School, students follow an approved course of studies leading to the PNG School Certificate in Year 10 and the Higher School Certificate in Year 12. Successful grades in the the HSC will enable the student to apply for Tertiary Studies either in PNG or overseas.

Port Moresby Grammar students are also encouraged to sit for the University of Cambridge suite or EFL Examinations and Information Technology certificates.

The school has more than 60 professional teachers who have been recruited from within PNG and overseas. The teaching staff are supported by a large ancillary staff, both in and out of the classroom.

The campus is located on the old Port Moresby RSL Club site in Batavia Street, Boroko. It has a unique architectural design, built around a large courtyard and dominated by huge ‘Haus Tambaran’. The Junior School is in a linked but separate building also built around a courtyard. Facilities at the school are excellent. Students have access to over 200 computers in laboratories, internet cafes, the library and classrooms. There are specialist science, technology, music and audio visual rooms. Backup power means the school remains open during the frequent cuts which plague Port Moresby.

The school emphasises Information Technology, from its Prep students through to grade 12. It is the only school in Papua New Guinea authorised by the NSW Department of Education to offer Information Technology as a HSC examination subject.

This is where the future leaders of Papua New Guinea will come from – and we – yumi – can help make it happen!

We (yumi) can help at different levels. For some it might be taking out an Australian Geographic or Bulletin magazine subscription and having it delivered to the school. For others it might be participation in our ‘bring a book’ campaign. Others might wish to sponsor a student and have the bursary established in their own name while some might like to conduct a fundraising campaign to sponsor a memorial bursary named after a digger who fought in PNG.

The spirit of the support is as important as the value of the bursary. Keep in mind that little things make a big difference in PNG.

All funds donated to the Kokoda Bursary Program will be directed to Port Moresby Grammar School to support sponsored students.

The Kokoda Bursary Program

 ”Yumi helpim pikinini lainum skul’

The Kokoda Bursary Program is an educational initiative aimed towards PNG students who have the aptitude for a formal education but neither the money nor the means to obtain one.

Papua New Guinea is our closest neighbout, former mandated territory, fellow Commonwealth member and wartime ally. During our hour of need in World War 11 they extended a hand to assist our diggers and led hundreds to safety.

Now the roles are reversed and they need a hand. The Kokoda Bursary Program is an opportunity for us – yumi – to make a difference by giving hope to a student who will surely be consigned to a subsistence existence without it.

It’s the least we – yumi – can do.

‘You and me can help PNG children to learn at school’

If ever you wanted to do something to help some of those bright-eyed young ”angels’ who sang for us along the track then think ‘education’ – it’s their only hope!

The odds against these kids are overwhelming. Half the PNG population is under 19 years of age and 80 per cent earn an average of A$10 a week. Only 20 per cent of parents can afford an education for their children and this year 40 per cent of these drop out at primary school level.

In Oro Province the 2001 enrolment rates for grades 1 to 6 were 72 per cent; grades 7 to 10 – 29 per cent; and grades 9 to 12 – 18 per cent.

Over the years we have tried to do our bit by sponsoring village students at Provincial Government High Schools and providing funds to assist community schools along the track. Unfortunately these initiatives require intensive supervision as village schools are closed and relocated; sponsored students are substituted; and monies are misappropriated.

Notwithstanding this we will continue to provide support with your help and will do our best to ‘audit’ the process via our trek leaders who are constantly on the track.

During our research for an educational institution with the curriculum and the governance to host a scholarship program we were introduced to the Port Moresby Grammar School. This school was initially regarded as a ‘school for dropouts’ but has progressed to be a leading independent school with more than 60 teachers and 1300 students. The school is run by an independent Board of Directors and is now known as the ‘school of opportunity’ because of its commitment to assisting bright young students who do not have the family or financial support to complete their education.

We have visited the school on a number of occasions and met with Directors and teaching staff to develop a scholarship or bursary program that will allow you to sponsor a student. Bursaries will be named after individual or company sponsors who be listed on an honour board at the school and on their website. They will be named:

‘The (your name) Kokoda Bursary’.

Memorial bursaries will also be established for families or battalion associations to name after veterans who fought in New Guinea, eg:

‘The (Veteran’s name) Memorial Bursary’.

The school will appoint a co-ordinator for the program and sponsors will receive reports on the progress of their students. Sponsors will receive a framed certificate with the name of their bursary as an acknowledgement of their generosity each year.

Last year 3 male and 2 female Koiari students and one male Orokaiva student had to be suspended because of a lack of funds for school fees. This year (2007) there are 15 female and 7 male Orokaiva students plus 4 female and 4 male Koiari students attending the school. In addition to this there are numerous other students from Provinces where our diggers fought who are in desperate need of financial help.

Our goal is to assist them to complete their education and give them a chance, or a second chance, to play a leading role in the future of their country.

Ples helpim ol,

Posted by Charlie Lynn