THE whole village in remote Woitape, Goilala, Central celebrated when they heard that their very own Sebastian Keteva was going to graduate from university with a degree in November.
They all wanted to come to Port Moresby to witness the momentous occasion, the first time someone from the area had reached such a high academic achievement.
Sebastian had to stop them because there was no road to the village and the only way to reach Port Moresby is by catching one of the charter flights that goes to the area.
Only mum Cecilia was allowed to make the trip on their behalf to witness his graduation at the University of PNG.
“When they heard that I was going to graduate, the entire tribe wanted to come to Port Moresby to witness the graduation. I had to stop them because of no road access and the problem of accommodation in the city.”
Sebastian, 28, hails from Mondo village in Woitape, Goilala, Central. He is the eldest in a family of eight – four boys and four girls. He also has seven other siblings from his father’s second marriage.
The area is cut off from government services. Mum Cecillia always motivated her son to succeed in his education. Sebastian did not let her down. He had made not only his parents but also the whole tribe proud.
His education began at the Tolukuma Community School, completing Grade Six in 2009. It was a five-hour walk every day from his village. He did it for five years.
“I will go back dressed in my graduation attire to celebrate my achievement with them. I keep my mother and people in my heart.”
“I use to wake up at 4.30am and arrive at school around 9am. I was always late for class.”
He then attended the Sacred Heart High School in Tapini up to 2013. He and his mates used to walk to and from Port Moresby during the holidays.
“We crossed fast-flowing rivers, climb mountains and walk through thick jungles to reach our destinations. When it rained, we used banana leaves as our umbrella. We slept in caves at night.”
At one point Sebastian almost gave up and did not want to go back to school after the Christmas break. His mother noticed that his peers were going back to school. So she gave Sebastian his school bags and told him to go with them.
“My mother encouraged me to follow the other boys who were leaving the village for school. Many especially girls had given up on education because of the distance and challenges along the road.”
Cut a long story short, Sebastian persevered, and in 2014 and 2015 completed grades 11 and 12 at the Sogeri National High School.
He was then selected for the Business Foundation at the University of PNG where he completed the Human Resources Management degree programme in 2019.
Sebastian plans to help women in the village to send fresh garden produce to Port Moresby on chartered flights.
“I want to provide goods and services for them.”
His message to young people in remote areas is that everyone can reach colleges and universities as long as they are willing to do the hard yards.
Sebastian plans to go back to the village to celebrate with his tribe what he has achieved.
“I will go back dressed in my graduation attire to celebrate my achievement with them. I keep my mother and people close to my heart. They were the ones who supported me and encouraged me to come this far.”
Hard work and sacrifice certainly pay off.