Ready to serve

Normal, Weekender

The National, Friday 03rd August 2012

IT must be an extra ordinary feeling to graduate from a university in a foreign country.
The feeling of jubilation uplifts you as an interna¬tional student, among the best in the world to finally graduate from a highly esteemed university abroad.
Scores of Papua New Guineans have experienced this feeling when graduating on foreign soil, flying or wearing the national colours, reaching out to receive that hard earned certificate handed over at the podium with a congratulatory hand shake.
Such was the case for two Papua New Guinean women Suzanne David and Oslai Degena on July 26 at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) in New Zealand.
David from little known Babel village on far flung Karkar Island in Madang province graduated with a Masters of Health Practice in Midwifery and De¬gena from Umi village in the famous Markham Val¬ley graduating with a Bachelor of Health Science in Health Promotion.
On this chilly winter morning, Albert Park in the Auckland City Centre in New Zealand was abuzz with grandaunds, parents and well-wishers. With ex¬citement in the air, nobody bothered about the occa¬sional winter morning gust that stole its way up from Auckland’s busy Queen Street rustling dry leaves and flipping gowns.
It was a day of admiration and joyfulness, every¬body was happy, the array of graduation regalia worn by the graduating students added a brilliant mix of colour to the bubbling atmosphere putting everybody into a mood of excitement and euphoria.
For the university this graduation was going to be a record, because for the first time ever a record num¬ber of 38 PhDs were awarded over two days of cer¬emonies. It was said that this was the highest number of PhDs granted by AUT University to date and an increase from the 20 PhDs awarded at the previous graduation in December last year.
Below Albert Park, the usually busy Queen street had come to stand still with police controlling traf¬fic at both ends, as the university bagpipers clad in fine Scottish traditional attire blew out a few heart-warming tunes.
Among the 2,500 grandaunds that formed a queue for the traditional graduation parade along Queen Street to the Aotea Centre stood two proud Papua New Guinean female nurses clad in the colourful gowns with eye catching meri blouses in PNG col¬ours.
Both had completed their studies from AUT’s North Shore campus which houses the Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences among others and is located on Akoranga Drive in Northcote, Auckland.
Suzanne completed a two years post graduate Mas¬ter’s programme while Oslai undertook an undergrad¬uate bachelors programme for three years.
Although they had achieved their objectives of coming to New Zealand both ladies said it was not over for them. They have a daunting task ahead, and that was to head back over the Tasman and across the Coral Sea to PNG to serve the people in their respec¬tive capacities as qualified health professionals.
Their individuals journeys to come this far was not easy. Oslai during her working days in PNG was a roving health practitioner serving in five provinces in various capacities mostly in the private sector. All the jobs she performed were not good enough to set¬tle her. She was always looking out for educational opportunities. Her search was rewarded in mid-2009 when she was accepted to study in New Zealand.
With three different qualifications under her sleeve, she is determined to step out and do her best for her country.
Meanwhile the soft spoken island girl, Suzanne had been serving in the Lutheran Health Services run by Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELC) of PNG in her home province in various capacities. Before leav¬ing for studies in New Zealand she was the Sister in Charge (SIC) of remote Biliau Health Centre in the mountainous Rai Coast area in Madang’s notorious Astrolabe Bay. She took care of a facility manned by five staff.
Both women have a good number of years’ experi¬ence serving in both rural and urban health facilities. They worked their way up the ranks in their respec¬tive organisations thus earning the opportunity to pur¬sue further studies overseas.
A growing number of Papua New Guineans are graduating from overseas universities with qualifica¬tions that can secure them jobs anywhere in the world.
While most graduates are enthusiastic to return home and contribute to national development, the conditions and environment for this to happen is often not provided by agencies and the government.
Lack of such opportunities and initiatives will re¬sult in a brain drain as nationals leave our shores for jobs overseas that meets their qualifications.
While Suzanne is still attached to the church-run agency Oslai is undecided about where she will fit in to utilise her skills.
Nevertheless both ladies are enthusiastic to return and serve their country.
Suzanne is keen to work with the Lutheran Health Services health care programme and start up cervical cancer test clinics in smaller health facilities within Madang province.
She highlighted the need for such clinics to bolster women’s health and is looking forward to extend and ensure this service is available in the small rural set ups if given the required support by her organisation.
Asked why she was interested in working with Lu¬theran Health Services, she said, “Because I started there and I owe it to them, they have supported me through my studies, so as a token of appreciation I will go back and work with them to extend their ser¬vices through innovative approaches to the people.” Her ultimate aim is to establish a cervical cancer pep test clinic.
Meanwhile Oslai says it would be a two-way pro¬cess to find employment when she returns.
Potential employers have to appreciate her quali¬fications and consider what she can offer to the or¬ganisation in return for benefits and fulfilment for her input.
Both women are optimistic they will be of value to the health service delivery needs in PNG.