UNIVERSITY of PNG student Judah Kutkue has experienced how tough life can be when brought up in a big family with meagre resources.
Judah, 23, into his final year at the School of Business and Public Policy, is from Maprik district in East Sepik.
“I was born and raised in a family of seven sisters and three brothers. We are a big family and it is very challenging when the only source of income is subsistence-based.”
In 1979, his grandparents had moved from Maprik district to Angoram after the Government set up the Gavien rubber scheme and offered blocks on 99-year leases. His grandparents got a block and the family has since lived there.
Judah’s dad is a pastor and a subsistence farmer. Mum is a housewife who helps dad on the farm.
“We have at least three hectares of rubber plantation and also grow cocoa, which is the main source of our revenue. We also grow rice and garden foods for ourselves.”
Judah recalls attending classes in elementary school under a rain-tree because of the lack of classrooms.
Later as he moved up the grades, his pastor dad was posted to a church seven kilometers away from school. So for three years, Judah had to spend six hours travelling to and from school.
“At the same time, we had to work hard to survive.”
He completed Grade Eight at Gavien Primary School and in 2013 enrolled at the Bamesaka Secondary in Wewak town for Grade Nine. He completed Grade 10 in 2014.
“ I was born and raised in a family of seven sisters and three brothers. We are a big family and it is very challenging when the only source of income is subsistence-based.”
“My greatest challenge was to find money for bus fares and food every day. Usually, I just had one meal a day. Often, I went from one meal a day to a meal in two days.”
He completed Grade 11 and Grade 12 at the Passam National High School, a 30-minute drive from Wewak town.
In 2017, he was accepted to study public policy at UPNG.
“I was on a Department of Higher Education Tertiary scholarship scheme. It covered my tuition fees only.”
He paid for boarding with assistance from his elder sister and her spouse. But the scholarship was withdrawn in 2018 because he had poor grades.
So at the end of 2017, he returned to Wewak to find ways to raise money for his school fees for 2018.
“By the grace of God and help from my parents, we managed to raise enough money to cover my airfares and university fees. I couldn’t afford to board. I had to look for a place to live in Port Moresby.”
An Assembly of God church pastor allowed him to live with his family in 2018 and 2019.
He again returned home at the end of the 2018 school year to find more money for his fees.
“With help of my big sister, I was able to pay my compulsory fees and get registered for 2019.”
In January and February this year, he was one of the 10 final-year students at UPNG selected to attend a five-week summer school at the Australian National University in January and February.
Now he is into the final stretch and hopes to graduate this year.
“Every child needs a good education to strive for a better tomorrow and to fulfil their dreams and ambitions in life. I thank God who by his grace helped me through my years of education despite all the challenges.”
- Story and pictures supplied by Australian National University