By TREVOR WAHUNE
Being a pioneer in anything does create life-long memories.
Memories of being a pioneer could be either good or bad, of luck or misfortune.
As a pioneer of a school that is now established and contributing to the development of Bougainville, I want to share of mydays at Devare Adventist High School.
In 2008, after hanging out two and a half years in my mother’s village in Inuz, Tinputzdistrict, in North Bougainville away from school, there was news spreading across Bougainville that a new Seventh-Day Adventist High School was going to be established atInuz.
Years prior to the talk of building a high school there, the Bougainville Adventist Mission had spared a piece of land, situated beside our village.
I used to hear from my mother and my uncles, and also from community elders back from 2002-2008, especially after dinner when we visitedwe would pass time telling stories at night.They would tell us children that a high school would soon be built beside our village and it was important that some of us began focusing on school so we could be pioneers of it.
To me, all those were just old stories.
It so happened that at the beginning of the 2009 academic year, when the then Kepesia Adventist Primary School principal Enoch David and his wife Penninah David who acted as his deputy announced the recruiting of Devare Adventist High School’s first Grade nine batch to make up two classes.
Kepesia Primary School is one of the oldest Adventist Primary Schools in Bougainville, located in Inuz.
From observation, I saw the Davids’ move as suicidal; they recruited two new graduates from the Pacific Adventist University, Trevor Bauelua, and Demas Vai.
But today, when looking back, I say it was exciting being a part of their “suicide mission”.
Now the staff team then was small and vulnerablebut I can now positively say they were powerful as well.
So the first teaching staff structureDevare started with wasBauelua teachingMaths and Science classes, Vai teaching Personal Development and Business Studies, Mrs David teaching English and Social Sciences, and David teaching Religious Education and Agriculture.
Apart from their respective teaching duties were tasks of organising sports, social, and church programmes as well.
After the school registrations, and weeks into the first term, some students decided to leave.
They left because there was uncertainty over whether we were going to have Grade 10 classrooms for the following year.
Some left for other reasons.
When leaving they said the school lacked primary resources such as a library, science labs, computer labs, no reliable water supply, and the list went on.
And it was true, the school had no suchfacility when it started, but at least our teachers accessed computing equipment to help themselves source teaching materials online to teach us complementing the school syllabus. This was something accepted by some of us students who chose to stay.
Despite students leaving the school that time, the two Grade nine classes with their teachers kept faith that classrooms and staff houses would still be built somehow.
When we were into the second term, I remember our teachers inviting Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) members from Bougainville’s House of Representatives to visit our school area and assess the vacant land preserved to build our school, and to come up with plans to build classrooms and staff houses.
The then North Bougainville MP, the late Sir Michael Ogio was also present with other national leaders like FidelisSemoso who was the then Bougainville Regional MP at the time.
The gathering was more like a lunch invite fundraising for them to drop by and make contributions to the school’s development.
After all invited members announced the contributions they would make, most of which ranged from K5,000 to K10,000, Sir Michael Ogio was the last person to announce his contribution as North Bougainville MP.
Surprisingly, he told us that he would give K500,000 to help fast track our dormitories, classrooms and staff houses.
When Sir Michael broke the news of handing our school K500, 000, I remember turning to my classmates and each of us giving ourselves high fives, and telling ourselves “We’re good!”
Four to five months later, we began seeing tangible work taking place such as milling of timber, construction work, and the clearing of land by villagers from Tinputz.
After the 2009 Christmas holidays, we returned to school for the 2010 academic year to find our new classrooms that were built along with three staff houses.
There were two 4×1 classrooms, with a staff office in between the two on the top floor of one, and a canteen between the two on the ground floor.
The two classrooms on top one of the buildings which was complete was occupied by the Grade 10s, while the two beneath it was used by our new Grade nines.
The other 4×1 classroom was left incomplete, so our teachers used one of its top rooms as a staff office, and the other we used as a temporary library.
Beneath the incomplete classroom was used for church services during Sabbath, and social activities during weekends.
At the time, we had no playing field, so we just played wherever we saw fit to put up a volleyball net, built soccer gold posts out of off-cut timbers, or ruled lines using wasteengines.
We had no kitchen, so we used to cook our meals in a temporary one we built next to the incomplete classroom.
There was no school mess. We would group ourselves in 12s and assign someone to go pick up dishes of rice, garden food, and greens, from the school kitchen. We would just sit on the lawn we used for playing sports, serve and have our meals before bathingin the Pitpit River, to get ready for studies.
The challenges faced as a pioneer at Devare werehard-hitting, especially when it came to doing research.There was not enough resources for us. When it came to science experiments, I remember Bauelua would have us make wheels out of lemon and broom sticks, roll them down a slide, and ask us to calculate their speed. At least that was one of his few innovative experiments in his science classes I remember,
In business, I can still recall a time when Vai’s computer crashed with necessary teaching materials saved on it. Vai got us to do a small business project, and after he assessed us, he whispered to me once when we were working on the school farm: “You know what Trevor? That business project I assessed you guys on, that was a university topic called taxation.
“I had nothing to teach you guys after my computer crashed so I assessed you guys using that project,” he said laughing.
David our Social Sciences and English teachertaught us different types of creative writing, and used day-to-day issues in and around school as examples. This was her strengthand shegot everyone in her classes to clearly understand what she was teaching.
Religious Education was her core subject.
The experience as pioneer of the Devare Adventist High School complements the school motto of“Daring to succeed.”
I am sure the 90-plus other pioneers of Devarehave their own stories to tell of the hardships faced, joy and happiness in its first years we all dared together.
But for me, being a part of Devare’s first batch of graduates was an inspiring one, given the sacrifices, team work with students and teachers, and also the surrounding communities.
The experience I gained from Devare reminds me of words I heard somewhere: “A house divided against itself will not stand.”
By TREVOR WAHUNE