Sepik lads search for education

Brenden and their uncle Ronald at Ramsite.

DWU Journalism student
EDUCATION often takes much of the happiness in life from those who are determined to pursue it.
No matter how detrimental the sacrifice may seem, people with a persevering mindset would be willing to make it just for an enlightened mind.
The sacrifice often deprives them love, leisure activities and normal daily routines.
In today’s fast-changing, technology-driven world gaining an education often requires running against odds to at least be equipped with knowledge, and most importantly, being literate to earning an income and contributing effectively to the development of their societies.
An iconic figure once said, “if you can get through to doing things that you hate to do, on the other side is greatness”.
Life at Iowara Camp 10 in North Fly District of Western was somewhat satisfying for two young boys who embarked on a journey in search for education. They were able to find what they were looking for and also come across new and challenging experiences.
Brendan Jilan and Francis Wabia are cousins are from Forok Village in the Turubu East Coast of Wewak, East Sepik. Their journey to that part of Papua New Guinea came about after they could not find places in schools back in Wewak.
Before Camp 10, the first settlement of the boys was at Tarakbits Sub Centre; a place bordering Papua Province of Indonesia and Western Province. Their stay there was made possible by their big sister, Pauline, who works as a nurse in the area. She was posted to begin her career in that place after graduating from Raiyu School of Nursing in West Sepik.
Because she was a female and was the only family member to go and live in that area of the province, she asked that her brothers accompany her. This paved the way for the boys and opened up the opportunity for them to look for education.
In 2017, the boys did grade eight at the local Tarakbits Primary School.
“It was exciting for us to go to school. However, school life alone would be boring without doing other things. Our stay was enjoyable and amazing. On the weekends and holidays we help out at the local Catholic Church with their activities, sometimes we helped our sister and her medical team to carry out their medical work in the area. We also took part in the sporting activities like volleyball, soccer and basketball held in the area on the weekends. It was a wonderful and interesting experience. We learnt a lot. The people there were friendly and it was a good place to live in,” says Brenden.
Unfortunately, the boys’ stay with their sister in Tarakbits was cut short. They left their sister and went to Ningerum after being selected to do their grade nine at Ningerum High School in 2018. It took the boys about four hours to get there through a bush track from Tarakbits as there was no proper road for a vehicle. It was a boarding school.
About two weeks into the first term, their learning had unexpected disruptions. Firstly, teaching papers and a printing machine went up in flames in their science laboratory. However, they managed to put out the fire before it engulfed the building. Then, after a while, the administration building was burnt down. This forced the school to close and the boys took open transfer letters and returned to their sister at Tarakbits and helped her out with her duties while looking for another school.
It was not for long that their sister was transferred to the township of Kiunga and they all went there. Just after few days, she was again informed of her transfer to Balimo district. It was a very sad moment for the siblings as that was the time when they parted ways.
Their sister took up her post and arranged for the boys to go and stay with one of her colleagues at Iowara Camp 10. The camp was the 10th in the line of 20 camps situated in a portion of land at Iowara Vllage that was allocated by the PNG Government to accommodate West Papuans who fled during their civil war.
The man, their sister’s colleague, was a West Papuan and he was a stranger to the boys as they have known him only for a short time when he was with them working at Tarakbits. However, the boys had no choice but to go and stay with him as their sister did not want to risk taking them with her to the remote place she was going to. It was so distant from Kiunga town.
Their journey from Kiunga to Iowara Camp 10 began with a boat ride. From Kiunga wharf, the boys, along with the wife of the West Papuan man, travelled up the mighty Fly River to Ramsite waterfront. It took them about an hour to reach their destination as they were travelling against the current. The site was the base of a logging company that operates within the area. It was also the PMV and boat stop where passengers gather and wait. The three took a PMV from the site and travelled on an unsealed road for an hour to Iowara camp.
“It was very challenging living in the area. Basic services like hospitals, schools and roads were greatly lacking in the area. Camp 10 is at the center so a clinic, a primary school and a Catholic Church building was stationed there and they were all run by the Catholic Mission. People down at Lake Murray sometimes attended services at the camp. The road was also unsealed and it was difficult to get to Ramsite during rainy weather.
About three privately owned vehicles and three mission-owned vehicles cannot make it through the clay soil during these times so we often travel on foot and it takes us a day or two to reach Ramsite when going to Kiunga town. We often take a rest along the way”, says Brenden.
However, it was a wonderful and exciting experience for the boys to live amongst the locals.
“The people there were very kind and loving, they made us felt like it was home. It was also the first time for me to see an echidna, a native species there as we don’t have them in our forest back home. We thought they were only found in other countries”, says Brenden.
“We became so close to the couple. We called them uncle and aunty and they also regard us as their own blood relatives. We did amazing things together like travelling to different sites and taking part in leisure activities like playing soccer which saw our team making it to the finals and winning the grand final.
“Francis and I were selected to play in the tournament but unfortunately we couldn’t because we were leaving them soon,” says Brenden.
There was no more hope for education as the boys could not find a secondary school nearby. They lived with the couple for a year before Francis flew out first to Wewak, then Brenden flew to Port Moresby to live with his uncle. He is currently doing grade nine at Laloki Secondary School outside Port Moresby.