By MALUM NALU
IN Tari-Pori, Hela, a Fijian man has come in like a ray of sunshine into the dark clouds of gloom, doom and despair in the valley.
Henry Rabuku, a lawyer and former soldier with the Fijian army, is chief executive of the brand-new K30 million Hope Institute, a project of Tari-Pori MP and Finance Minister James Marape.
It’s no mean feat holding a candle in the darkness for the people of Tari-Pori but that doesn’t faze him.
Last month, while in Tari-Pori with Marape, I visited the institute and had a word with Rabuku.
He has four Indian teachers, one of whom is a woman, and a handful of national teachers under his wings since he went to Tari-Pori in May.
“We had 500 students, with another 100 for adult literacy in 2017,” he tells me.
“We will have classes from Grade 7 to Grade 12 when we are in full operation.
“Those who cannot make it under the education programme through FODE (Flexible Open Distance Education) will go on to the TVET (technical Vocational Education Training) programme.
“Grade 12 students will be channelled through to the UPNG programme or on to other institutions.
“We are now starting to get Grade 7 through to Grade 12 students into the classrooms.
“Next year, we are expecting the enrolment to go up to 2000.”
Rabuku says people who missed out on education for the last 20 years, due to the ongoing law-and-order situation, were lining up to enrol.
“Because of this, from May until December, we were running basic English classes just to get them back into the classroom,” he says.
“That’s basic reading and speaking English.
“That makes it easier because when we give them publications, they will be able to read it themselves.
“Once we get classes running in 2018, we will know how to handle the thousands of students who are going to come in.”
Rabuku has fitted in very well with the local people, who have accepted him and the four Indian teachers as their own.
The institute was launched in March last year with the aim of giving a new lease of life to the thousands of displaced young men and women of Hela.
Then Higher Education minister Francis Marus witnessed the signing of the agreement between Marape and then UPNG vice-chancellor Prof Albert Mellam.
The institute also signed an agreement with Susu Mamas to provide healthcare support to Hela mothers, and another agreement was signed between National Agriculture Research Institute and the Hela United Church to bring about agriculture development.
The partnership with UPNG will ensure arts, science and accounting are taught at the institute, with options for tourism, computing and other courses relevant to cottage industries in Hela.
UPNG will also run its matriculation programme at the institute to prepare school leavers for colleges and tertiary education.
The occasion also saw the presentation of the registration certificate of Hope Institute as a registered FODE centre.
Marape’s vision has become reality, with lecturers and course programmes now in place, 20 lecture halls, an administration building, library, modern accommodation facilities for 380 staff and students, mess for 800 people and kitchen.
With a man like Rabuku at the helm, the institute cannot go wrong.
- LEFT: Henry Rabuku, a lawyer and former Fijian soldier, is chief executive of the brand-new K30 million Hope Institute.
- RIGHT: Rabuku, right, with James Marape, middle, and other staff of Hope Institute in Tari.