By ERIC PIET
“I BELIEVE with complete determination in my heart that there will be sunshine after the rain.”
A determined Anna Anunga, the dedicated pioneer teacher in charge (TIC) at the New Beginning Literacy College at 9-Mile in Port Moresby declared this on the occasion of the school’s second graduation three weeks ago.
Friday, Nov 9, was a proud moment for Nana Nathalie Tom, who is the director of the school, now in its second year of operation. It was the graduation of about 23 elementary pupils.
That day saw me deep inside the settlement; I was there to cover the ceremony on an invitation by the school’s director. An escort waited for me at the 9-Mile bus stop and led me to the venue.
My imagination of the school was completely different to what I saw. A school, at least has to have a set-up of its own – a fenced yard, some classrooms, and staff houses.
That was where I was invited to, I thought. My expectations quickly changed when my escort led me into a settlement.
“This is the way to the school,” he told me. Instinct told me that this was not going to be what I had expected. Fear of settlement life quickly engulfed me. Had the location been described to me when the invitation was given, I would have given it a second thought. “It is now late,” I told myself.
My fear was quickly quelled when after some distance into the settlement I caught sight of the welcome banner strung atop the entry of a clearly demarcated yard, which read “Welcome to the New Beginning Literacy College 2nd Graduation Ceremony”.
I quickly pointed my phone camera to the banner to capture it as my escort entered the yard to announce our arrival. Surprisingly, I was greeted by a boy with a lace, and a lot more smiling faces of the children and the staff team with few parents who were also there to witness the event. The smiles definitely turned my anxiety into comfort.
After brief meet and greet with handshakes, a fine young woman, an assistant teacher at the school stood up to address the gathered audience, obviously she was the mistress of the ceremony who spoke English with great eloquence throughout the ceremony. Only later did I know that Serah Nilkare, 19, of Gumine in Chimbu, was a first year Journalism student at the University of Papua New Guinea.
I noticed some charts on a board displaying drawings and numbers and a table full of books and other materials carefully placed in a corner under the large high post house. I knew then that this was where these children were passing out from – this was their classroom.
The opening of the ceremony saw Pius Nilkare, an invited guest, lead us in a word of prayer, followed by speeches from the school director and the TIC.
I was really moved by Tom’s speech. She is one of those Papua New Guinean women who has a big heart for the society she lives in, a truly wonderful woman who cares about the disadvantaged children, and who does not want these children to be left behind for the rest of their lives.
“They are people just like you and I, we are all created by God, and their state of being impoverished does not warrant us to turn a blind eye on them, they deserve to be given an opportunity by caring Papua New Guineans,” she said.
“These are children from broken families, orphaned, and some of whose parents are illiterate street or roadside vendors who would not afford to send their children to government and other well-established private schools in and around the city.
“Most of these children have been collecting tin cans to make ends meet. And I thought that if they continue to live that way for the rest their lives, it is and will not be good at all.
“Something needs to be done to improve their situation. As such, I brought this initiative to help these people in this community, I believe that in the next few years these poor kids will become valuable citizens in the country.”
It was in 2015 when this Chimbu-Madang woman in her mid-30s and married with two children thought of establishing a school to absorb these left out children in the community but due to certain constraints the actual establishment of the school eventuated two years later. She says that it is not sufficient to give money or food for these poor kids as they would come begging again from whoever provided them their immediate needs.
Putting them into school and teaching them life values would instil purpose and meaning in their lives. The motto of the school is therefore coined around this idea: “Develop your Character, Change your World”. Tom’s great idea gels well with the old Chinese proverb that says “Give a man a fish, he will be hungry the next day, but teach him how to catch fish, he will forever be satisfied.”
With limited financial resources, Tom has registered the New Beginning Literacy College with the Investment Promotion Authority (IPA) on April 7, 2017 and with Internal Revenue Commission (IRC) in Feb 21, 2018. The school now is in its second year of operation as a private educational institution. The school in its maiden year graduated 16 children last year who got integrated into the mainstream schools in the city to do Grade three this year.
According to Tom, they have performed exceptionally well in their new schools after passing out from her school.
“I have been gladdened by parents of those children that we passed last year when they come back and thanked us saying that their children were doing well after we had taught them here,” Tom said.
Tom said that the intake this year has gone up to 23 children and expected that it will soar to 30 or 40 with the buildup in interest by other children. She said that she has got all her teaching materials from the internet and the school by the International Christian Academy (ICA) curriculum.
“My aid in teaching the lesson contents to the children comes from overseas, there are people who supply me with teaching materials, and they are willing to assist me financially but that would be after some time.
“Some organisations like European Union (EU) and ExxonMobil PNG Limited have shown interest but certain required criteria or conditions have to be met before they will begin to chip in,” Tom said.
Nana Nathalie herself has a level 10 education from Gerehu Secondary School in 2000, but would have been holding an overseas degree from New Zealand now had it been for her plumber father paying a K700 admission fee and other necessary costs for a scholarship offer for a three year programme after passing out in Grade 10.
As if her world had come to an end when she did not make it to NZ, she opted to getting married to Sam Munduab, a Madang man from Bogia in Madang whom Nathalie appreciates as a very helpful person.
But Nathalie is one who does not take things the easy way, she began to cast her net for other opportunities. Armed with her Grade 10 certificate and the scholarship acceptance paper she began applying for jobs, she initially worked in some supermarkets in the city and left later to join Bank South Pacific in 2007. In her seven years with BSP she was sponsored to study at International Training Institute (ITI) for a Diploma in IT majoring in networking in 2010, and successfully graduated in 2012.
Nathalie now works with Nasfund Contributors Savings and Loan Society but had stints with The National in the advertising section and also with People’s Microbank after leaving BSP in 2014.
Nathalie says she has a passion for teaching and aims to concentrate on developing her newly established school after working for some time with NCSLS.
“I have a passion for teaching, but in the mean time I need finances to support my family and the teachers that are running the school. When reputable organisations come to my aid I will give my entire commitment into running the school. For now, it’s all Anna Anunga who is doing a fine job in running the shore,” the school’s director said.
Nathalie said that she was looking forward to 15-20 years’ time to reap the harvests of what is sown today.
“I believe that one day you will be proud that having schooling underneath the house you have made it to becoming a pilot or a doctor, which is a dream for most of you,” she told the graduates.
“I believe that New Beginning Literacy College will also grow like Kopkop College and Port Moresby Grammar who started humbly in their small setups.”
Nathalie believes that education is a single biggest tool which provides people with necessary knowledge, skills, techniques and information to expand their vision to see the world and develop capabilities to fight injustices, violence, corruption and other negative factors that affect our societies today.
The day was coming to a close with much fun and entertainment by these neatly groomed children who were once scruffy looking.
I could smell a delicious chicken menu cooked in a local style and it was not long before a large dish was brought to me, which I was unable to finish it as time was catching up.
On the bus ride home, I could not stop thinking about those kids, some of whom have collected academic awards for their impressive performances.
By ERIC PIET