An ex-student pays tribute to his old school on their diamond jubilee.
By Rev SEIK PITOI
I was pleasantly surprised to hear from my younger sister that this year, 2020, marks the 60th anniversary of the Port Moresby International High School – a diamond jubilee year!
Being one privileged to be educated there in the 1970s, I immediately began to think back to my time at that great school. My sister, Lulu Matana is currently a teacher there, but she was not with me and my two older sisters at Pomis. She was a Murray International girl who proceeded on to Marianville High for her secondary education. Nonetheless, I was grateful for having it pointed out to me so I could reminisce the good old times!
This article will be my personal tribute to Pomis as I share some stories of my time there from 1975 to 1978. It is not a full history of Pomis up to its present modernised stage. Others are more qualified to talk about that.
However, I will commence with a brief introduction and background to the school. I thank Deputy Principal Ronen Moore for permission to use selected material from his “A brief History of Pomis” document. (Ps – ex-Pomis students can share the school’s 60 year journey at www.pomisjubilee.wordpress.com)
The Port Moresby High School was initially set up to cater for the educational needs of expatriate children living in Port Moresby. Moore states that the school “had its beginnings back in 1959 when a small group of high school age students met together in a room at Ela Beach Primary School. They were taking Australian correspondence courses”.
The school moved to the current Boroko site the following year, formally commencing with 190 students.
“Port Moresby High School, as it was known, was an ‘A’ school. Prior to Independence, schools were accredited by the National Department of Education to run as A (Australian) or T (Territory) schools, following the New South Wales curriculum. All of the teaching staff were expatriate teachers throughout the 60s. Students were a mixture, predominately expatriate. There were over 700 students in the school in 1972”.
The school grew and began to accommodate more international and local students. 1977 saw IEA (International Education Agency) formed which “undertook the management of a number of schools, including Pom High. Steven Mead was part of the founding board of directors of IEA”.
Moore adds that in the 1980s, “the school became PNG’s only real international school offering PNG, Australian, International Baccalaureate, and Cambridge courses.”
POMIS today has evolved into the ‘state of the art’ option to quality international education in PNG.
I did Grade 7 at Pomis in 1975. That was 45 years ago! My older sisters, Rose and Rara Pitoi, were in Grades 10 and 9 respectively. We all did our primary at Ela Beach International (EBPS) and transited on to Pomis.
Grade 7 was a wonderful time of meeting old friends and getting to know new ones. One teacher I remember was Mr Harvey, my maths teacher. One time, our whole class did a math test poorly and got Harvey riled. He threw our papers into the ceiling fan which scattered them all over the floor. We had to look for our own papers which we thought was quite amusing! From that day on, however, many of us improved our marks!
As Grade 7s, we admired our senior students and were impressed with the way they carried themselves. The school captain when I joined was Richard Kassman, and he was an excellent leader.
And on the sporting field, one couldn’t go past Poka Kila. Poka was good in rugby, athletics and just about everything! Then, there was Kila Ai, Rarua Biga, Gamoga Valahu and Tau Mea, just to name a few ‘big boys’.
One group of brothers I recall were the Lowensteins, huge boys like their parents, with flowing long red locks. Their parents, known as ‘Mama and Papa Oyster’, ran the famous Oyster Bar at Tabari place!
Another character I remember was Peter Roach. His mum, Mrs Roach, was the mortician who ran the Funeral Home at Erima! His close friends said it was quite spooky hanging out with him at his home!
At EBPS, my sisters and I did swimming as we were members of the Boroko Amateur Swimming Club. I was even on the school senior boys relay swim team! But at Pomis, I gave it up and played squash instead, apart from the usual soccer and rugby.
Then I learnt basketball. In the Grade 7 basketball tournament, my class came last as we didn’t have many good players. But at least we had my Indonesian friend, Andy Roedjito (son of the Indonesian ambassador), who played really well so we thankfully had a few points on the board at each game! I joined just to make the numbers, and learnt to play in the process. Another game that was introduced to us was called “korf ball”. It was a bit like net ball and we played it at the netball courts. The blokes felt strange playing that game so were glad when it got phased out again!
I can recall just a handful of my teachers from the four years I was there: Joy Bear was our principal, and we had Mrs Kidu (now Dame Carol Kidu – Social Studies), Mrs Enyi, Miss De Wolfe, Mr Stewart (science), Mr Perry (Arts), Segundo Rivera (Manual Arts), a national teacher Mr Haboic, and Terry Riles our sports master.
One time, those of us in the soccer team were going through some drills when the ball accidently got kicked across to where Riles was coaching his rugby league boys. An angry Riles yelled, “Get that funny looking ball out of here!” For him, the rugby ball was perfect while the soccer ball was shaped funny!
Kila Ai and Tau Mea went to Australia for a term on attachment in their final year. Then, my sister Rose and Poka Kila went down. Rose attended the Picnic Point High School in Sydney. She did so well to be on that programme.
Incidentally, she was top in her French class at Pomis. She spoke with the accent and all. It was handy having her around because I too did French and when I got stuck, was able to get some free tutorials at home!
My other sister Rara was talented in drama, as we realised when she played a lead role in the school play, The Westside Story. That kindled a passion in her for the arts and years later, she was part of the Taurama Theatre Group. She also acted in and wrote radio drama!
One programme I really enjoyed was bushwalking. The teacher in charge was Mr Stewart and he would take us on certain Friday afternoons up to Sogeri near the villages there, to begin our walk. We hiked through bushland, ate wild fruit, swam in the cool river and set up camp by the river (though slightly higher up in case the dam opened suddenly)!
Next day, we’d get picked up by Mrs Stewart along the road. One time, we did the walk alone after he dropped us off. We navigated our way down and camped overnight by the river. We arrived safely the next day at the back of Marianville high school. On Monday afternoons, we’d gather at Mr Stewart’s ‘dark room’ in the Science block where he showed us how to develop the photos he took on our hike!
My final story is about an encounter with Mr Gwilliams, who wasn’t one of my teachers. A large gentleman with a bellowing voice, he was ex-Aussie military and literally marched around the school when on lunch hour duty.
We behaved when we crossed his path. One day, he called me and said, “Go to the house and see your aunty. She has some medicine for your grandfather”! Aunty? I soon found he was married to a lady from Hula, a relative on my mum’s Hula side. Wow, so we were family! I went up and met my aunt and got the medication. As the hooter went, I said goodbye to her and ran down to my waiting friends, showing off to them that I was now connected in ‘high places’ at Pomis!
My four years were eventful as I learnt a lot and made many friends. Udu Boe, Tim Arisa, John Becker, Jeremy Harris and Fred Arua were great buddies, as were the Rabona sisters, my cousin Vavine Boga, and the Onno twins.
There are many wonderful school mates I could mention if I had the space. Thousands have passed through Pomis over the past 60 years. Many have become prominent people in our nation with more elaborate stories to tell. Others, like my sister Rose, have passed on. The international education we received gave us balance and helped us appreciate people of all races, colour and religion living among us.
Finally, I salute all the expatriate teachers who served since the inception of the school. Thank you for your sacrifice. Your legacy lives on in your students.
Kudos also to the present day teachers – both local and expatriate – who keep making this the exceptional school that it is. Congratulations, Pomis, on your diamond jubilee!
- Rev Seik Pitoi is a freelance writer.