By PAUL MINGA
GIDEON Komon Pokowas from Bunai village in Manus, is the second of four brothers in the family.
For such a young man still in his early 20s he has gone through two agonising and painful experiences that were huge blows to his education journey. But he still persists on in setting his sights on accomplishing what he dreams of through education just as any other school leaver.
He first started working on his dream when at Papitalai Secondary School in his beloved Admiralty lslands – another name for Manus. Gideon set his target but never knew negativity and danger were awaiting him.
In the first stroke of misfortune, Gideon was not accepted to continue his education at the University of Technology Lae which had been his first choice on the Grade 12 school leavers form. That left him devastated and hopeless, especially when he saw his school mates going to tertiary institutions around the country for further studies.
Well, at times unexpected things happen to people in their life’s journey leaving them victimised, traumatised, hopeless, and longing.
Gideon was a young man freshly out of school and full of energy, enthusiasm and desire to get a good education. But that desire alone couldn’t get him where he wanted to be as a result of Gideon’s low mark in his final Grade 12 maths exam.
When his elder brother who was working and living in Northern heard of Gideon’s plight he quickly made arrangements for him (Gideon) to travel over to Popondetta to stay with him so he could help to further Gideon’s education through extension studies.
As soon as arrangements were in place Gideon travelled from Momote airport to Nazab in Lae, planing to sail to Popondetta on a banana boat.
But danger awaited Gideon over the sea between Lae and Popondetta. And he regrets to this day that he had gotten on awrong boat.
In fact the boat and engine were without any defect but it was the silly act of the skipper that led to the accident and nearly ended Gideon’s life.
It was some time in April 2020 when the accident happened. Gideon was with four other male passengers along with the skipper and his crew making, seven heads in total.
When the dinghy skipper started the 75 horse power engine at Lae’s Voco Point and took off for Popondetta’s Kikiri Point, everything was fine.
But as soon as they set sail past Salamaua he saw the skipper and the other four passengers drinking beer.
As the beer party gained momentum Gideon said he felt worried about whether they would be able to make it to their destination safe and sound. Gideon even thought about telling the skipper to stop somewhere so he could get off but this was not a PMV on a road but a boat out on the deep sea.
There was no mishap on the journey until they sailed the last remaining kilometers of their destination. As soon as they were almost there with their destination coming into view, the drunk skipper thought that they made so he was not taking extra precautions.
At that instant a huge wave that would have been avoided slammed the dinghy with such force that it flung it and all its occupants into the air. The boat was overturned and everyone was in the water.
According to Gideon, the beach was about 40 metres or so away from the point of mishap – where they were thrown mercilessly off into the sea.
Gideon was thrown off and into the water next to the spinning propeller of the outboard motor. His right leg came into contact with the propeller which sliced his lower leg bones – the tibia and fibula.
With that right leg paralysed, he used only the left to and arms to swim toward the beach.
The others were not hurt in way and were able to swim ashore without much trouble. Gideon was in great pain and had to support his damaged leg somehow with his good leg and very painfully managed to eventually swim ashore behind all the other occupants of the overturned boat.
He was rushed to the Kikiri aid post that evening for first aid treatment where he spent the night and was transferred to Popondetta General Hospital the next day for proper treatment, examination. An x-ray revealed that both his lower right leg bones were broken.
Gideon was hospitalised for few months and was under the care of doctors and nurses at the hospital receiving necessary treatment to have his broken bones grow back and heal.
After months in a hospital bed he was discharged but now is still on medication at home and following the doctor’s advice as his two broken bones need extended time to heal completely.
Currently he is nursing his broken leg at home but his desire to pursue further studies is still burning in him.
That has seen him getting enrolled in distance education studies where he is now seen busy upgrading his mark in mathematics and at the same time nursing his broken leg.
Currently he is house-bound most times but moves about with the aid of crutches while continuing with his external studies.
Gideon is such a strong-willed person with a never-say-die mentality. He is he focused on education despite missing on selections for Unitech a year ago.
He has survived a terrible sea accident which almost had his life cut short. But these two situations are no excuse for Gideon to consider quitting his education dream.
The Manus islander still persists on in in desire to accomplish his dream for a higher educational achievement.
Reflecting of the boat accident, Gideon is unsure whether to sue the boat owner or not. That is something he will decide after a full recovery.
- Paul Minga is a freelance writer.