By MALUM NALU
A VISION of hope by Prime Minister James Marape for his disadvantaged people of Tari-Pori, and the whole of Hela, is slowly but surely coming true.
That vision is the aptly-named Hope Institute in Tari, a brainchild of PM Marape, which was opened in March 2017.
The Prime Minister was an emotional man on Monday this week (Oct 25) when he addressed more than 300 Grade 12 and Grade 10 Flexible Open Distance Education (FODE) students at Hope before they sat for their final examinations.
Hope Institute has come in like a ray of sunshine into the dark clouds of gloom, doom and despair in Hela, with Henry Rabuku, a lawyer and former soldier with the Fijian Army, at the helm as chief executive.
What started with a small team of teachers, including four Indians and a handful of nationals, has grown.
Rabuku and the Indians, one of them a woman, have forsaken the comforts of home to live and work with the people of Tari-Pori and Hela.
Hope institute was launched in March 2017 with the aim of giving a new lease of life to the thousands of displaced young men and women of Hela, who have missed on a proper education, because of ongoing law-and-order problems since 1997 when Hela was part of Southern Highlands.
It is this lack of education that has contributed to the ongoing law-and-order problem in Hela.
Hope Institute has had teething problems, including the massive earthquake disaster of 2018, and ongoing law-and-order problems, but has persevered.
Then Higher Education Minister Francis Marus witnessed the signing of an agreement between Marape and then University of PNG Vice Chancellor Prof Albert Mellam in March 2017.
The institute also signed an agreement with Susu Mamas to provide healthcare support to Hela mothers, and another agreement was signed with the National Agricultural Research Institute and the United Church to bring about agriculture development.
The partnership with UPNG will ensure arts, science and accounting are taught at the institute, with options for tourism, computing and other courses relevant to cottage industries in Hela.
UPNG will also run its matriculation programme at the institute to prepare school leavers for colleges and tertiary education.
The occasion in March 2017 also saw the presentation of the registration certificate of Hope Institute as a registered FODE centre.
PM Marape says his “most-satisfying” achievement for his Tari-Pori District and Hela is seeing his people being given a second chance in life for further education.
He said this at the Hope Institute on Monday morning when giving a pep talk to Grade 10 and 12 Fode students – many of them married men and women – before they sat for their final examinations.
The students – 200 Grade 12s and 120 Grade 10s – are from all parts of Hela and have made use of this institution founded by Marape in 2017 to further their education.
Last year, 16 students completed Grade 12 at Hope Institute, with one now studying at Pacific Adventist University outside Port Moresby while the rest are at various institutions.
The women, some with grown-up children, are pursuing higher education after many years.
One is Ruth Pagu, a widowed mother of eight who was educated only up to Grade 9 in 1989, and is doing her Grade 12 examinations.
“My last education was at Koroba High School in 1989 up to only Grade 9, I never completed my Grade 10,” she says.
“I got married in 1989 and now, after 32 years, I am back at school.
“I have eight children and two grandchildren, my husband died, and I am now back at school.
“I did my Grades 9 and 10 at the Provincial Fode Centre, did well, and did my Grade 11 and 12 here at Hope Institute.
“I am very happy to be sitting for the Grade 12 examinations.”
Among the men is a former school mate of the Prime Minister, Jackson Pama, who is sitting for his Grade 12 final examinations.
He achieved his education through the FODE system and completed Grade 10 at Paglum SDA High School in 2011.
“I am very happy to be doing the examinations after doing my Grade 11 and 12 here at Hope Institute,” Pama said.
Rabuku, the former Fiji military man, says the institute is living up to name and giving so much hope to Hela.
“We’re hoping that one day, when they (students) go back (home), there’s an opportunity to change Hela,” he said.
“As you can see, most of our students are adults.
“They have the ability to make reasoning in terms of life, they have the ability to make change in the future, as they return back to society as a different person.
“I think that is what Hope is all about…it’s all about bringing hope to everyone in the province.
“After the exams, they will go back to their places, and spread the word of peace and hope amongst their tribesmen.”
“We hope that one day, these students will bring about change in our province through education, and through friendships they have built.”
Marape said in the face of many exciting new infrastructure developments, in Tari and Hela as a whole, “there is no greater joy for me than seeing you all matriculating into Grade 10 and Grade 12, and looking to education as your path in life”
“I’m totally satisfied. This gives me joy as your local Member here in Tari that we have invested well,” he said.
“The Fode system gives a chance to those of you who have left school to continue education and find your path in life.”
Marape said the Hope Institute would help its graduates to pursue further education both in Papua New Guinea and overseas, including training in running small business.
He announced that the institute would as from next year offer technical training to produce skilled tradesmen and women for both Hela and PNG.
“Education has endless rewards,” PM Marape said.
“Those who persevere, and focus on life, will be a better person: More enlightened, more informed to make better decisions in your own life.
“I want to congratulate the mothers who are back in school.
“Half of the students here today are female, including married women, whose husbands allowed them to come back to school.
“An educated wife is a better wife to look after her family, children, and assist the husband and community.
“I also see fathers here who are doing Grade 10, 11 or 12.
“It joys my heart to see people valuing the second chance education we have established in Hela.
“As you come out of exams, go back to society, and be agents of hope in our society – in Koroba-Kopiago, Margarima and Tari-Pori.
“Advocate for education, good health and peace in our society.”
- Malum Nalu works with the Office of the Prime Minister