Crisis child becomes IT technician

Stanis at his workstation at the IBSU IT Department.

WHEN people talk about conflicts in the country, one that comes quickly to mind is the Sandline Crisis, a political scandal that became one of the defining moments in the history of Papua New Guinea.
During the conflict, one or more children were born to parents who were struggling to survive in Bougainville when the conflict became a nightmare while others were infants and did not know what was happening at the time.
Among those who were born was Stanis Kingke Pio from Buin in South Bougainville. Here is a personal account of how he and his parents managed to go through the crisis in order to live and see another day.
Stanis was born to parents Pius and Regina Pio on June 3, 1993 and it was one of challenging periods in the history of Bougainville.
As Stanis recalls the account told by his parents, back then some people had left to settle in the care centers taken care of by the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) while some fled into the jungles of Bougainville seeking safety with the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA).
“In my case, my parents left home and set off to the mountains between the Central and South Bougainville to a place called Wisai, where I was born,” Stanis said.
“According to my mother, I was born in a semi-permanent shelter in the mountains of Wisai, away from all the medical attention a baby and a mother needed; this was the life presented before us.
“My mother told me that life was very challenging. Every time when I ask about that life, she would take a sudden pause to get her thoughts together and then she would continue.”
Stanis’ mum always told him that during that time she was a first-time mother who was very young and was confused about how she would raise her son during that time of crisis.
“She always told me that by God’s grace, a very close family friend of ours helped my young mother to take care of me while dad was on the battlefield.
“Basic needs such as medical services, shelter, and clothes were a real challenge as we were living in fear while all basics services were cut off by the PNG Government.”
As told by his mother, “deaths caused by treatable diseases were common, apart from deaths on the battlefield while we were living in sorrow and pain of losing our family members.”
“Amidst all the chaos, my mother always believed that there was hope and one day peace and normalcy would return where she would raise me just like any others kids in a peaceful place. She told me that I was just a year old when my dad was shot in 1994 and was sent to seek medical attention in the neighbouring Solomon Islands.
“My mother told me that when my dad was taken to Solomon Islands fear was all she could feel. I wasn’t the only child she had to look out for I had a baby sister as well who was born in that year. She barely knew that raising two kids without a husband by her side was going to be hard but she had hope, a spark of faith, and her two children; these kept her going. Eventually my dad survived the gunshot wounds.”
By year 1999 peace talks were established between the two parties that were involved in the war. This was the period Stanis and his family moved out from the jungle. Since his dad was a teacher, he was asked to teach in one of the newly established schools in a village called Oria Primary School. That was also where Stanis began formal education.
“From then on, we moved from place to place because of my father’s duties as a teacher. It was because of this that I completed my elementary education instead at Morou in Turuboiru mission and moved with my family to Wakunai district where I attended Teokai Primary School to go Grades 3 to 5.
“I had decided to repeat Grade 5 when in another school and the same happened when I made it to Grade 6.”
Because of what Stanis had to go through with his parents while growing up, they moved from place to place and then returned to their home province Bougainville or what is now known as the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (AROB).
Moving and repeating grades
“I move to Chimbu, where I again repeated Grade 6 and back to Bougainville where I completed my Grade 8 in 2010. I was then selected to study at Buin Secondary School in 2011.
“I repeated Grade 11 in 2013 and 2014 and finally completed it in 2015 and was accepted to study Information Technology at the Institute of Business Studies University (IBSU) and successfully graduated in 2021 with a Bachelor in IT.”
“People probably thought the reason why I repeated was because I was moving from place to place but the reason why I repeated while studying in lower primary and up to secondary was because as a child among many born during the Bougainville crisis, my mind was not set on education because of what we encountered.”
Stanis said the other reason was the fact that they had limited learning facilities and resources including books, classrooms and sometimes have one teacher teaching more than two classes or no teacher at all.
Now with eight younger siblings (one brother and seven sisters), Stanis said he was one of the fortunate ones to have survived the crisis with his parents.
“I know that was the case for most children born during that time. To get rid of that traumatic experience and act like a normal child, my dad made me repeat grades so that I could take my education seriously. This was the home I grew up in.
“Regardless of all that we went through during the crisis, my parents pushed me to grow out of that fear and to hope for better days ahead.
“Personally, I would say I was an average student when I was in school, struggled with my education and didn’t expect that I would come this far but because I have amazing parents, I have come this far to get this degree,” Stanis said.
While continuing his education, some of the significant lessons he learnt from his parents whilst growing up were discipline, safety and care.
“My mum is a semi-educated woman but is a queen before my eyes. She knows the value of being a mother to her children; the care and love she gave to me from the day when I was born is so much even today, while my dad is a fighter who believes everyone should benefit out of something. He loves, cares, and supports with discipline.”
Since graduating high school and moving to study at a tertiary level, one of the main things that caught Stanis’ attention was the growing need for ICT in the world and that was why he chose to study this course.
“I have this dream to make a change in the IT industry back home. From where I come from in my region we have this technology service coming into Bougainville but we are waiting for someone to make things happen; it is now up to the young and educated generation of Bougainville who will make things happen.
“With the knowledge that I have acquired my goal is to go back and make an impact to improve lives. Improve schools, hospitals and to show them that the region’s human resource does exist.”
Since graduating from IBSU and to his advantage Stanis also obtained a certificate in cyber security, gaining a little more knowledge in the world of IT. He also started as an intern then with the IBSU ICT department towards the end of Semester 1 in 2020 using his free time. On Oct 7, 2020 he officially started as an IT graduate trainee.
Cyber security concern
“PNG is a place where we take security for granted when we get too comfortable. Cyber security is one of the technical fields in which the country lacks to address cyber issues and to manage a safe and secure cyber space.
“People need to be aware that technology is evolving every day and cyber security is a main concern. We are more vulnerable to be hit by cyber-attacks because we lack the capacity to prevent and withstand the attacks.
“I have this passion to contribute meaningfully to cyber security in our country. Right now, I have a certificate in cyber security and moving forward into the future, I have this long-term goal to be a cyber security specialist to be able to make a difference for a safe and secure cyber space in our country.”
Stanis is now employed and works with the ICT department at IBSU especially dealing with students on a daily basis creating student user accounts, monitoring the internal network, managing the server, and attending to help desk and ensuring that every staff and student have access to IT resources on campus; both IBS college and university.
“My message to my friends who survived the crisis is, do not dwell on the past, instead find something that makes you happy and make a difference. Be the change that people want to see. It is not too late to start.”