Give
Year 10 graduates and guests are welcomed to the celebration in Mougulu (credit: Landen Kelly)
EducationYouth

Isolated PNG school celebrates first ever graduates

23rd January 2023

Year 10 graduates and guests are welcomed to the celebration in Mougulu (credit: Landen Kelly)

Graduates and guests are welcomed to the celebration in Mougulu (credit: Landen Kelly)

Two years ago, Nomad Mougulu High School in remote Western Province, opened its doors for its first cohort of students. Last month, over 50 of them graduated with flying colours. The school – which was built with MAF’s support and can only be reached by foot or by plane – has gone from strength to strength

In the school’s first ever graduation ceremony, 54 students passed their year 10 and – for the first time – 25 of them will stay on to complete their year 11 and hopefully year 12.

The school has just become a ‘secondary school’, which means selected students can now officially study beyond year 10 (equivalent to the UK’s sixth form).

Hundreds of guests attended the graduation ceremony, some of whom were flown in by MAF.

54 Year 10 graduates attend the first ceremony of its kind at Nomad Mougulu High School (credit: Landen Kelly)

Year 10 graduates attend the first ceremony of its kind at Nomad Mougulu High School (credit: Landen Kelly)

Turnout was so high, many guests had to sit on the floor (credit: Landen Kelly)

Turnout was so high, many guests had to sit on the floor (credit: Landen Kelly)

The school, which didn’t even exist three years ago, is now ranked three out of 12 schools in Papua New Guinea’s Western Province.

School head, Ian Lloyd, leads the ceremony (credit: Landen Kelly)

School head, Ian Lloyd, leads the ceremony (credit: Landen Kelly)

Students have worked very hard to achieve their grades (credit: Landen Kelly)

Students have worked very hard to achieve their grades (credit: Landen Kelly)

Passing on precious knowledge

Another success story is ‘home-grown’ science teacher Maika Yabua who started teaching at the school when it opened in 2021.

Maika teaches science at Nomad Mougulu High School (credit: Mandy Glass)

Maika teaches science at Nomad Mougulu High School (credit: Mandy Glass)

Students are absorbed in Maika’s lessons (credit:Mandy Glass)

Students are absorbed in Maika’s lessons (credit:Mandy Glass)

Maika is the first and only person from Dodomona in Western Province to graduate from university with a degree. His village has a population of around 1,800.

A child born to missionaries whose ministry took them beyond Dodomona, Maika was able to access a better standard of secondary education than his peers. Eventually, he graduated in Science from Goroka University in the Eastern Highlands and trained as a teacher before returning to Western Province to give back to his community.

Maika initially wanted to become a MAF pilot like Corne Noordhoek who regularly flies to Mougulu (credit: Landen Kelly)

Maika initially wanted to become a MAF pilot like Corne Noordhoek who regularly flies to Mougulu (credit: Landen Kelly)

Like these children in Mougulu, Maika became fascinated with MAF at an early age (credit: Landen Kelly)

Like these children in Mougulu, Maika became fascinated with MAF at an early age (credit: Landen Kelly)

Having witnessed MAF planes flying in and out of his village as a boy, Maika initially wanted to become a MAF pilot, but his career aspirations changed when he realised how imparting knowledge to others could transform whole communities for the better:

‘As a little boy, my dream was to become a pilot when I saw MAF flying in and out. I thought that was the only job that I would love to do but then I realised that if I become a MAF pilot, only me would be educated, so I decided to serve my fellow brothers and sisters who don’t have access to education, so that all of us would be in a better position later on. God called me to become a teacher – no mistake.’

Maika Yabua, Science Teacher at Nomad Mougulu High School and MAF partner

Maika chose to study and teach science in a bid to change harmful cultural behaviours within PNG’s remote, rural communities.

It’s hoped that a proper understanding of biology, chemistry and physics will eventually break widely-held superstitions and sorcery, which perpetuate gender-based violence and tribal conflict.

Educating future generations is key to a more peaceful society in Papua New Guinea where a woman is beaten every 30 seconds and where more than 1.5 million people experience gender-based violence every year (source: Human Rights Watch).

Learning about Biology will hopefully breakdown harmful, superstitious beliefs (credit: Mandy Glass)

Learning about Biology will hopefully breakdown harmful, superstitious beliefs (credit: Mandy Glass)

A memorable day

Following Maika’s graduation, his homecoming was a day he’ll never forget. The community turned out in full traditional regalia – brightly coloured feather head dresses and string skirts with ochre painted all over their bodies. The dancing and singing to the beat of their drums signified a very special occasion:

‘Getting a degree is a great thing, not only for me but for my community, Dodomona and even my whole Edolo tribe. I was the first person to get a formal education and graduate from university. It’s a huge thing for my family too.

‘After I graduated, I flew back to Dodomona with MAF. People were waiting for me at the airstrip. They were wearing traditional attire to welcome me. The pilot was confused and wondered what was going on! I thought I was a prime minister or something – it was an amazing day.’

Paving the way for more homegrown teachers

Maika hopes that educating his students will enrich their lives in the long term:

‘I want my students – my brothers and sisters – to become like me in future. I want to see them prosper in life.’

Director of Strickland Bosavi Foundation, Sally Lloyd – who founded Nomad Mougulu High School – believes Maika has paved the way for the next generation of homegrown teachers:

‘I’d love to see our homegrown teachers like Maika return to serve their own people and to really make a difference in their community through education. Every single student has the potential to make a difference and improve lives. That’s what I dream of.

‘When I’m not around anymore, may this legacy continue and go from strength to strength.’

Maika has paved the way for other children from this remote region to become the homegrown teachers of tomorrow (credit: Landen Kelly)

Maika has paved the way for other children from this remote region to become the homegrown teachers of tomorrow (credit: Landen Kelly)

Join Maika, Sally and Deputy Chief Pilot Steven Biggs on MAF UK’s new ‘Flying for Life’ podcast as they discuss access to education in Papua New Guinea and Liberia.

The Flying for Life podcast is a free resource and part of MAF’s ‘He Saw It Was Good’ Bible Study Series, which explores how Christians can support sustainable development.