By PISAI GUMAR
It is Saturday, June 9, 2018. A rainbow, in all its natural colours, shines over the misty Gowoongk mountain that nestles the two-year-old Buang High School in Bulolo, Morobe.
The rainbow signified a blessing to the school on the Queen’s Birthday weekend when two spades dug up the soil to mark the building of a new classroom block.
A handful of teachers, invited guests and local councilors stood under the glittering rainbow when school board chairman Siliwana Tagit and Bugiyau councilor Ken Norm officiated at the ceremony.
Mathias Deng, in his mid-80s, the principal landowner and chief of Duvusduga clan, the custodian of Gowoongk mountain, was there to witness the occasion. The Gowoongk mountain is located near Wagau and Bugiyau villages in Upper Buang.
Deng requested this reporter to take a photograph of him and stood right where the rainbow arced over Gowoongk land.
Deng is an inspiration to many that want to see improvements to the high school that is expected to educate future elites of Buang.
“Dispela em hap graun bilong mi na ol lain famili; mipela wanbel na givim long gavman long putim hai skul long hia,” Deng expresses his family’s consent for the use of their land. He hopes to see changes taking place at Gowoongk to educate future generations of Buang.
The school has only three staff houses, a girls’ dormitory, three classrooms and a gravity-fed water supply.
There is no apt administration office to accommodate the principal and his deputy as well as teachers and school board.
The school, like many other newly established high schools in remote Morobe, is still struggling to improve its facilities and academic standard due to lack of learning facilities and resources.
Other new high schools established in the province are Boana, Wantoat, Morobe and Ragiampum Seventh Day Adventist and they are likewise currently struggling to improve facilities.
Others in the pipeline are Sefo and Gabensis in Huon Gulf, Garaina and Watut in Bulolo and Labuta in Nawaeb, among others.
To ensure their success requires various aspects to complement each other.
It means funding for teachers’ houses, classrooms, dormitories, learning materials and equipment, ablution blocks and security.
Parental support to teachers, school boards and children’s welfare is crucial and will support government aspirations to ensure each LLG has a high or technical high school.
Such a policy directive helps rural parents to cut back on travelling costs for their children attending boarding schools away from them.
It also prevents rural students from the influence of illicit activities like school fights, drugs, homebrews and cults practiced in urban schools.
The Morobe and Boana schools that are expected to become technical high schools are still struggling due to funding constraints and mismanagement issues.
Morobe still remains as a high school and Boana is yet to enroll students though it was expected to open in 2016.
Wantoat and Ragiampum in Markham are progressing slowly despite inadequate facilities.
Bulolo MP Sam Basil initiated Buang High School in 2014 using district service improvement programme (DSIP) funding.
However, the contractor has delayed construction and the school opened only in 2016.
The school is still in need of science laboratory, a library, a kitchen, ablution blocks and additional classrooms.
It enrolled 180 students but 10 have withdrawn.
The pioneer Grade 10 students are expected to graduate at the end of this year.
Sadly, the students are not acquainted with science lessons in chemistry and physics, and the use computers and a library to for additional knowledge or information for assignments and essays.
Principal Andrew Anduari is concerned about the students who do not have the benefit of a science laboratory, equipment and books.
Four teachers reside off campus in Wagau and Bugiyau villages and the school pays K300 each month in rent for them.
Similarly, 40 male students sleep in two houses in the same villages the school pays K400 and K500 for them.
“They walk up and down Mt Gowoongk to attend classes each day,” Anduari said.
The 80-man boys’ dormitory remains incomplete.
School board chairman SiliwanaTagit has embraced Basil’s initiative and has used his own initiative to secure K180,000 from a donor agency to build an additional double classroom.
Anduari acknowledge Tagit for securing the funding through Morobe provincial project coordinator Bradley Wopai.
The ground breaking on June 9 was for this classroom.
“We cannot sit and wait for Basil alone to feed us, instead the community needs to embrace the project initiatives and take ownership,” Tagit said.
The pioneer chairman is mindful also to set a precedent during his tenure before retiring.
Tagit understands that Basil has six LLGs and 110 wards to take care of by dividing the K10 million in DSIP funds equitably among them.
However, the Government is unable to allocate the K10 million all at once. As a result some projects like the 80-man dormitory in Buang High School is left incomplete.
Wopai said the funding source will cater for Buang High School (K180,000), Tent Siti and St Patrick Primary Schools (K200,000 each) in Lae.
St Patrick will build six units and Tent Siti will construct two respectively for their teachers.
Wopai said the funding and construction in Buang would go in line with the school development plan to support Basil’s district development aspirations.
“Whether the provincial government will support us or not, we will still go ahead to build these facilities which are expected to be completed in September,” Wopai said.
By PISAI GUMAR