By GIBSON GEORGE TORASO
THE story of a boy who lost his father when he was five years old but succeeded in his pursuit for education with trust and faith in God, could be an inspiration for others who come from similar backgrounds.
After receiving his Masters in Human Resources Management last month during the 63rd graduation of the University of Papua New Guinea, Wia Manda attributed his achievement to his late mother for encouraging him to embrace God who he believed was the foundation of his success.
“I attribute my achievement to God and my mum for her unfailing love and direction for me to have faith and trust in God,” he said.
“The saddest moment was the absence of my mum during the celebration with my family. I still love you my mum… even when you were gone for you planted God in me, who had been the foundation of my success.”
Manda, who hails from Tsak valley in Wapenamanda district, Enga, is married with two children.
He currently works with the Papua New Guinea Forest Authority as an organisational development officer.
The last born of three boys and two girls, to parents Manda Kote and Putaingi Manda, Wia never thought he would attend school one day as his siblings did not because their parents never sent them to school.
After his mother remarried in the hope of looking after him, Wia recalled facing difficulty growing up under the care of his aging mother and stepfather.
“Life was so difficult,” Manda evokes, adding that he was neglected by families and relatives while his siblings got married and moved on in their lives and never returned to help him and his mother.
Like most village boys, Manda developed a keen interest in hunting. A bow and arrows become part of his life and his passion for hunting continued beyond school age.
“My friends who were attending school sang in pidgin and English. And that challenged me to follow them to learn what they had learnt at school.
“Going to school was not my parents’ decision. It resulted from the challenge put on me by my mates and a pressing advice from my mum to accept Jesus.
I stood with God and not with man which enabled me to withstand the test of time.”
With a tribal fight between the Yambran tribes raging the heart of the valley, Manda had to wake up before dawn and walk few kilometres to Sopas Primary School.
He was selected to attend St Paul’s Lutheran High School, Pausa (now secondary school) to do Grades seven to 10.
Coming from a poor background did not matter to Wia as he was one of the top five students of his class at Pausa.
In 1998, his stepfather passed on. Supported by his ailing mom, Manda completed high school in 2000.
Life has never been a roller coaster for Manda after high school.
In 2001, he was selected to Kopen Secondary School to do grades 11 and 12 but he had to withdraw because of another tribal fight which put his life in danger.
Neglect by family and relatives haunted Manda but he still had trust in God and moved on with faith in his pursuit for education and a better life.
“High school life was interesting but painful to me because my families and relatives bypassed me to support other students,” Manda recounts, saying the pain still haunted him today.
“Temptations were high. I thought my hunger for education was ending.
The very thought to be involved in criminal activities knocked at me.
“But my mom’s advice to have faith and trust in God was the right direction she foresaw for me.
It was also the fruit of her daily prayers.”
Manda said he could remember his mother, a devoted elder of the Lutheran Church, pressing him to have faith in God before he left Tsak valley.
“I might not be with you to witness your success ahead, but one thing I want you to remember is the pathway that I had shown you, the seed that I had planted in you and the shield that I had bestowed to you. With God, your life’s journey would be easy,” Wia remembers his mother telling him.
“Now that I am about to pass on, there is no one to help you. Only God would.
I am never at rest praying daily. Surely, God would bless you among your tribesmen. Do not forsake God.”
Inspired and rejuvenated by his mom’s advice, Wia trekked a bush route in two days to reach Porgera to work for money to move out of Enga and find a space to continue his education.
Manda was looking for jobs in Porgera with his Grade 10 certificate but he couldn’t be employed as all his attempts were unsuccessful. With fading hope, Wia thought to become a manager one day which means never to give up on in his education.
He said he ended up meeting one of his nephews who was a gold buyer. Thinking that his nephew might help him continue his education, Wia helped him with his gold buying business.
With his assistance, the business thrived with profits doubling when his cousin started accusing him of stealing and even mocked him about his education. That eventually resulted in a a confrontation.
His cousin removed Manda from his house without giving him anything for helping him grow his business.
“The lowest point was when I broke down in tears. The next morning, I sold my Stockman shoes for K70 and left for Lae looking for opportunity.”
Manda spent a couple of days in Lae with a distant relative but couldn’t find any opportunities. With his faith and trust in God and through a divine intervention, he bought a plane ticket to Port Moresby.
In Port Moresby, he was accommodated by his enemy tribesmen as his own could not accept him.
While looking for a Grade 11 space at schools in Port Moresby, he was advised that he could secure a space through the Education Department.
Manda sought help with the department and surrendered his Grade 10 certificate as instructed.
While waiting for feedback, he started street vending.
When the 2002 academic year began, Manda was given an acceptance letter and a plane ticket by the department to attend Aiyura National High School in the Eastern Highlands.
“I couldn’t believe it happened.
I couldn’t believe I was going to continue with my education,” Manda said.
“It was God’s plan. My dream had come true.
It was through my faith and trust in God that helped opened another door for me to fulfil his plan in my life.”
Manda said he felt thankful to Barnabas Maua, an official from the Education Department who help him, when he flew to Aiyura via Nadzab the next morning. He completed Grade 12 in 2003.
The following year, he was selected to do Bachelor of Business Economics at the University of Papua New Guinea.
But when registration began, with advice from a relative, Wia decided to stream to another course in the School of Business Administration to fulfil his plan in Porgera in 2001 to become a manager.
Wia was struggling to cope with studies and look for money for accommodation, food, bus fee and other needs from 2004 to 2007.
But with his faith, Manda gained confidence to give his all to his studies because he thought that “sometime, life would not be hard like this all the time”.
During the festive season after he completed his degree programme Wia tied the knot.
In 2008, he was recruited as a casual HR clerk with the PNG Forest Authority in Port Moresby.
Manda said his success had never stopped people from hating him and the hard life that he had went through seemed endless but “I took God as my shield through these testing times and my faith paid off”.
After few months, Wia was made a permanent employee of the PNG Forest Authority.
“It’s 10 years now since I joined PNGFA. It was from here that God showed me the way to gain my master’s degree.”
Manda said a scholarship opportunity from Brunel, a European company, knocked at the corridor of the PNG Forest Authority’s human resources branch for a master’s programme in human resources management.
“I seized the opportunity which took me two years to complete that programme at the University of Papua New Guinea,” he said
Manda said today after his painful journey through struggles he never had any regrets in life.
He said he forgave those who wronged him and embraced people who had contributed in his success.
“The Lord used people to help me and I am humbled and honoured to appreciate them all for their undivided support. May you all reach the heights of your potential as you all have a reason to celebrate,” he said.
“And for those who did bad to me, I will always forgive them. By their deeds, they gave me confidence and courage and put me closer to God who was the basis of my success.
“May God’s name be glorified for this achievement, the second highest step in the education ladder.”
Manda said his best friends today were the very people who mocked him as he promised not to take any revenge. He even supports their children with money to show them that he kept no account of their bad deeds.
“After reaching this stage in education and life, I realise that it was God who wanted to put His record straight with me and I am proud God has fulfilled his plan for me.”
By GIBSON GEORGE TORASO