By ALPHONSE PORAU
SCHOOLS facing challenges associated with being in a remote place but are exceptionally doing well in national examinations deserve to be rewarded with the basic learning facilities and infrastructure essential for any learning institution in the country.
One such school is in the remote area of Fife Bay in Milne Bay. James Chalmers Memorial High School (JCMHS), also known as Suau High School was established on March 23, 2012, by the local United Church with the assistance of the PNG government and initiated by Alotau MP Charles Abel.
The school, formally the Lawes College Campus of London Missionary Society (or United Church), and an interesting past, having been established by the first missionary to country, Dr William George Lawes, in 1894.
Since 2012, it has been recognised among the top 10 schools in the country that have performed exceptionally well in the national grade 10 examination, and for five years has maintained a top-10 standing among schools.
Over the Easter long weekend, Milne Bay Day Committee representative Jimmy Segodi – accompanied by Rebekah Houji, of PNG Cancer Foundation, and Mark Steven, of the Bank of PNG, travelled to Fife Bay to visit the school to find out how it is.
The visit was no easy feat with the team having to travel through rugged and harsh road conditions to Fife Bay via the main highway. At the school, they met and interviewed headmaster Leonard Pwaka, to see how Milne Bay Day can support the school.
Pwaka explained that the school receives students from more than 12 primary schools in nearby villages and districts including Iloilo, Sibalai, Savaia, Nawabu, Silosilo, Konemaea, Nube, Gadaisu, Padipadi, Boilave, Seaseada as well as Fife Bay.
The school has three main classrooms, two dormitories and a small mess that caters for a roll of about 200 students. There are three classes of grade 9 and two classes of grade 10 and a team of nine teaching staff, including the headmaster, who all live in school housing within the school boundary.
It is a wonder that a school that churns out excellence does so without the benefit of a library. There is no science lab, no proper admin block and a mess that can hardly fit the number of students at the school in one sitting. The only source of power for the school is a diesel generator that can only cater for three classrooms.
In the past, the usual mode of transportation for the school was by canoe, followed by a long walk through mountain tracks. Bringing supplies in from Alotau involved a four-hour drive to the closest village of Mariawate followed by a boat ride to Fife Bay.
The school was finally connected by road in 2013 through the Bamata Oil Palm Plantation, with Charles Abel donating a brand-new Toyota Land cruiser ute to the school the following year.
The vehicle has greatly benefited the school as an alternate means of transport for supplies and necessities. The maintenance of the road has to be ongoing otherwise road travel can be very difficult and dangerous.
The Milne Bay Day event is in Port Moresby tomorrow.
The visit to James Chalmers Memorial High School helped the committee identify the needs that needed to be met through fundraising activities in Port Moresby.
The committee comprises the Milne Bay Students Union and members of the Port Moresby Milne Bay community.
Since its debut, the main purpose of Milne Bay Day has been to raise funds to support the union carry out education and awareness programmes on the importance of education in the rural areas of the province.
Through this programmes, the students visit rural villages and communities in each LLG at the end of each year to conduct awareness workshops.
The Milne Bay Day committee will be hosting two major fundraising events tomorrow. The first is the Milne Bay Provincial Day which will be followed in the evening by the Milne Bay Nite.
Milne Bay Day will be held at the Sir John Guise Stadium from 9am to 5pm. Milne Bay Nite starts at 6pm at the Cosmopolitan nightcclub, Vision City Mega Mall.
The second major fundraising event this year is a corporate gala event. The details are to be announced at the provincial day celebrations.
Milne Bay Day aims to incorporate equal representation from all the districts. Local artists such as Wabo Knights Band, Corner Joins, Bahaki Slabs, and Vocal Fusion Finalist Jeremiah Prout, Mitchell Napoleon and Isaiah Manoah will perform.
The slogan this year is Together we can, for Milne Bay Province.
By ALPHONSE PORAU