By JAMES GUMUNO
AN old Tok Pisin Bible school which was converted into the present day Kewamugl Lutheran High School located at the border of Chimbu and Jiwaka is finally receiving government assistance tafter 20 years.
The school at the far end of Kerowagi district in Chimbu has been enrolling students from both provinces since 2000 but was largely ignored by successive leaders from both provinces. Its mission statement, reads: “Kewamugl Lutheran High School exists to foster integral human development through God-fearing stewardship and proficient curriculum implementation.”
The school has struggled over the last 19 years but was finally recognised by Kerowagi MP Bari Palma when he accepted an invitation to officiate at the 19th grade 10 graduation last year.
It was on this visit that the local MP saw the needs of the school and quickly made funds available for new infrastructure developments. After seeing the female students living in an old colonial missionary home converted to a dormitory, he allocated K200,000 from the district service improvement programme early this year to build a new girls’ dormitory.
He awarded the building contract to Demange Engineering Construction Ltd, a locally owned company which put up a new girls’ dormitory within six weeks.
Palma who was invited back to the school on March 8 for the opening of the new dormitory, committed funding for three more new projects for the school this year.
These include a water supply, a new conference hall and new ablution blocks for students.
Palma said that he wanted these projects completed before September in preparation for the 13th National Lutherhan Pastors Conference to be held at the school.
He did not disclose the total funding but awarded the contract for the new buildings also to Demange Engineering Construction Ltd, saying the locally owned company has set a standard by building a quality girls’ dormitory with limited funding. He commended the company’s managing director Bonma Danga for partnering with him to deliver a good building in minimal time.
He said that many other building projects funded by the district development authority were yet to be completed. He also said the Kerowagi to Dona road would be upgraded together with the Ganigle-Morma -Kewamugl road for pastors to travel in easily later this year for their conference.
The national conference would bring more blessings to the school as the host of the event, Palma predicted.
Kewamugl Lutheran High School started in 2000 with the first 23 grade nine students and enrolment has steadily increased over the years. Today it has 466 students in four classes each of Grades nine and 10, a third of whom are girls. Half of the students are boarders.
Due to the shortage of teachers’ houses and classrooms, the school has 13 teachers with an average teacher-to-student ratio of 1:60 which obviously results in overcrowding and lot of work for the teachers.
According to principal Betty Komndi, many of the school’s current facilities were built by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG between the 1950s and 1960s for the then Tok Pisin Bible school.
These are two classrooms, three dormitories and seven staff houses including the missionary’s residence which a former headmaster lived in. This house is no longer used by the school as the local parish has withdrawn tenancy from the school, resulting in further shortage of staff housing.
One classroom was converted into a library which contains around 2,000 publications.
Currently, the school has eight classrooms, two classrooms from the Bible school days, five dormitories of which two were built in 2010, 10 teachers’ houses (seven from the former Bible school), one staff room built in 2014, and one bush material mess which has a capacity to hold 150 students at any one time.
They use firewood and rain water from tanks for cooking.
With the current structural reform in the Education Department implemented this year, Kewamugl would be required to take in students in grade seven to 12 in the near future. The lack of appropriate facilities such as additional classrooms, teachers’ houses, dormitories, science laboratories, mess and kitchen still remains a great concern to the school.
There are no modern ablution facilities; the two existing dormitories have open spaces furnished with 32 beds with no storage drawers or study tables. One of the girls’ dormitories built in the 1950s is about to collapse any time.
Boarding girls bathe and do laundry in a little creek nearby but this will be a thing of the past when the new ablution block and water supply are opened before September this year.
Komndi said the school depended on the tuition fee free money of the National Government to build three staff houses, two classrooms and two dormitories.
She commended the local MP for funding the girls’ dormitory and making commitments to fund other important projects in her school.
Kewamugl is at last seeing change for the better.
By JAMES GUMUNO