Koto dedicated to building a school

Students inside their bush material classroom.

SIASI Koto, of Samirufa area in ward seven of Gahuku local level government (LLG) in Goroka district, wants to see the future generations receiving quality education and going on to higher callings in life.
Koto played a pivotal role in the establishment of Gahuku Primary School in his area by investing more than K30,000 of his own money and donating two hectares of land for the establishment of the school in 2015.
The school is located northwest of Goroka town, a one-and-half kilometre drive north from Five-Mile section of the Highlands Highway.
Koto, who only went as far as grade six at Okiyufa Primary School from 1969 to 1974, realised how important education was after living in the village nearly all his life and offered his land to build the school.
He said the school would host basic literacy and numeracy skills for the community.
One of the children to benefit from Gahuku Primary School is Koto’s grandchild from his daughter Lindham while he expects son Charlie Oliver and daughter Jenny to one day send their children to the school.
Koto, from a family of 10 children, thanked his brother and associate Alfred Gotaha, who is currently supporting the school with stationery, materials and funding and helped him to build one of the semi-permanent classrooms.
Gotaha, who has spent time with Koto in the school, said it was growing but needed basic school infrastructure.
He said having a school in the Samirufa area was a need as population in the area was increasing because many people from other provinces were migrating in to the area and settling because landowners were selling land to them.
Gotaha said the human resource was a great concern for the people, like everywhere else, and that they also wanted a good school where their children could attend.
Koto said a survey conducted by then Goroka District Education officer the late Ian Kapu confirmed that his Samirufa area had many school-aged children and for those attending Okiyufa primary risked crossing Kefamo river and walking along and crossing the road between the Five-Mile and Okiyufa primary section of the Highlands Highway.
He said the nearest school to Okiyufa was Gorohanota Primary School which was quite a distance and was located in a populated Kotuni area with more school-aged children.
“We have lost children along the highway and some have drowned during floods and rainy periods as they tried to cross the Kefamo River,” Koto said.
He said when the late Kafu’s team came to Samirufa, he showed them the land he offered for Gahuku Primary School to be established and they accepted the offer.
“I moblised the people to cut trees and helped clear the land and started building classrooms on Feb 13, 2015, and we started classes in 2016 with four teachers,” he said.
A retired head teacher Michael Teine from Chimbu, who came to help build a house for one of his brothers at the time, was engaged to start the school for them in 2015.
Teine remains at the school to this day, assisting the acting head teacher Kaison Wonat.
Koto raised funds through his night tea and coffee sales and bingo card competition to support the school; he also approached senior community member Alfred Gotaha who contributed K500.
“I used the money to raise more funds and supported the school and teachers until the school was registered earlier this year,” he said.
Koto’s son Charlie helped by buying a hand-held grass cutter which is now used to cut grass in the school.
Koto told The National that his commitment to establishing the school had cost him his marriage because of a disagreement on how he was spending their money.
“My wife left and I had no money to send my son who was accepted to attend UPNG and a daughter who was doing grade 12 could not go further,” he said.
He thanked Gotaha for coming to the support of the school to buy stationery and curriculum materials.
Koto said when the school was registered by the Education Department they had seven teachers and a board of management.

One of the bush material classroom buildings at the school.

“Our documentation for tuition fee free (TFF) fund is with the Education Department and we are anxiously waiting for the funds to be released.
“We have over 500 students, seven teachers and the school is level four,” Koto said.
Acting head teacher Wonat called on education authorities to speed up the process for them to access TFF funding to build classrooms and teachers houses.
Teine also reiterated the call for TFF to be released as soon as possible and thanked Koto and Gotaha for the financial support to date for the school.
Gahuku Primary School board chairman Harvey Teteh said since the establishment of the school, Koto had taken the responsibility to provide security and welfare of students, teachers and ancillary staff.
“We had no issues of security and welfare in the school, I thank Koto for this peaceful environment,” he said.