By THOMAS HUKAHU
LAST week I shared with you the options that a school leaver or dropout can take up if s/he is not successful in securing a study place in a tertiary institution, or a job in a firm or government department.
I urged dropouts to go back to the land and develop it, as in growing vanilla, cocoa or coffee, or even farming and harvesting sea cucumber.
Almost everyone who grew up in a village would have skills learned and can apply them appropriately to sustain themselves and their family or save money to help upgrade their education when opportunities present themselves.
Universities reach out to students
Since I work in the field of education, I am always interested in learning new methods or formats that institutions around the world are using to educate their students.
If you have been reading regularly, you will notice that universities and colleges around the globe are now reaching out to teach students all over the world by distance learning mode, where students are not actually taking lessons on their campus.
Some of these institutions are providing their texts in forms that students can download and videos are also utilised where their lecturers are recorded while teaching in their lecture rooms.
Even some courses you would think could not be easily done by distance learning mode, like computer science and theoretical physics, are now offered to students all over the world. (I will share more on such programmes in other articles.)
The availability of the internet has helped in a huge way and some universities are offering courses online where you can do and, upon completion of the programme, be awarded a certificate.
In other words, what was once inaccessible is now becoming assessable, where you can be here in Papua New Guinea and yet benefit from knowledge that is being shared in top and prestigious universities in the world.
Pastors doing unique programme
It was with interest that I learned that a group of pastors in Papua New Guinea completed a bachelor’s of science in Biblical studies programme in a unique mode of learning where lecturers flew into Port Moresby to teach students four times in a year. The contact time with their lecturers would be for two weeks in each quarter, then they would return to their churches and continued their ministry. The various courses they took were taught over two years.
It is actually a programme that was initiated by the Goroka Baptist Bible College, in Eastern Highlands, which has been running its pastors’ training programme on campus for years. The unique programme conducted in Port Moresby was a first of its kind, which enabled pastors or preachers in the city and elsewhere to upgrade their knowledge from the diploma level to a bachelor’s level.
Two of the students in the pioneer 14 students who signed up for the study programme travelled in from outside the city. One flew in from Popondetta, in Northern, and the other came from Wewak, in East Sepik.
A practical and vital programme
Pastor John Airi, a course participant and ministering at the One Accord Baptist Church at Taurama, in Port Moresby, said the course was practical and important to them, those who were in the ministry.
“I learned new things with each of the eight courses we took. The programme helped us go deeper in our personal study as well as we understood concepts better,” Airi said.
“Biblical geography was fascinating where we got to learn about the geography of the land of Israel and the surround areas.”
He said their geography lecturer Br Josh Green made the Promise Land come alive in that he had done studies on the subject while living in Israel and was very practical in what he taught.
Pastor Jason Hukahu, who is in charge of the local church in Wewak, said the programme was intense but vital as it equipped them better to minister to their people and reach out to unbelievers.
The studies demanded a lot of sacrifice on the part of the families of the students as well as their local churches. Of the initial 14 students who started the study programme, eight continued in the two years to complete it.
The mode of delivery
The programme was run by the Goroka Baptist Bible College and the pastors and preachers met every quarter for the two years to complete their eight courses.
They completed their studies in November last year and in March this year they graduated in Port Moresby.
“ Biblical geography was fascinating where we got to learn about the geography of the land of Israel and the surround areas.”
Their course materials were provided by the college and two American lecturers from there, Bill Smith and Josh Greer, as well as Prof Steve Grose from Australia flew into Port Moresby at different times in the two years to teach the students, as well as assessing them.
Airi said the contact time with a lecturer was tough in that they had homework to do every night for the two weeks that they spent with him.
“And when we were not in contact with a lecturer, for two months or so, we worked on our own where we were, going through the books and completing assignments,” he said.
Additionally, the students kept in touch with their lecturers by email to interact with them as they worked their way through their course material as well as attempting their major assignments.
Each course in the programme cost K300 and other expenses of the students were covered by their churches and families.
Students in the programme, like Airi and Hukahu, said they were thankful for the support they received from their churches and family members as well as their hardworking lecturers Smith, Greer and Grose.
Airi said his congregation was benefiting in a huge way because concepts he had learned in the programme had helped him study more effectively and teach them better.
Another programme I observed
That mode of delivering the study programme by the Goroka college reminded me of another similar concept utilised by the government of the Republic of Nauru 10 years ago to equip its teachers.
I was then working in that Micronesian nation where many teachers who were instructing students in class at the primary and secondary levels did so without any teaching qualification.
The Nauruan government engaged the Divine Word University in Madang, PNG, to run a programme in their country to equip their teachers by way of a degree programme. DWU flew in lecturers several times in the year to instruct Nauruan teachers for a week or so as well as assessing them. The rest of the study programme had the students working with qualified teachers in the nation, who helped them work through their course material.
Like the programme initiated by the Goroka college, that too was a unique programme where a government and a university worked in a partnership to equip professionals in their area of expertise.
You can imagine the amount of money that the government saved by adopting that mode of learning. Instead of flying 30 Nauruan teachers, many of whom were married, to Fiji to study for three years, they had a university flying in several lecturers over a few years to deliver the programme.
Such unique programmes help students in many ways, including preventing parents from leaving their children as well as the students continuing to learn while they earn.
Next week: A university majors in distance learning
- Thomas Hukahu is a freelance writer.