Students studying science at Nomad Mougulu High School, PNG (credit: Mandy Glass)
Nomad Mougulu High School – one of the remotest schools on earth – features in MAF UK’s first ever podcast ‘Flying for Life’. Set in the heart of the jungle in PNG’s Western Province with no road or river access, its founder Sally Lloyd tells presenter Josh Carter how they rely on MAF to survive
Nomad Mougulu High School in Papua New Guinea’s Western Province can only be reached by foot or by plane and is one week’s walk away from the nearest town, Kiunga.
It’s the brainchild of Sally Lloyd, Director of Strickland Bosavi Foundation, which helps support the school and other community initiatives in the region. Sally’s husband Ian is the school’s head who leads a team of eight teachers.
Sally and Ian Lloyd in front of MAF plane who set up the school (credit: Mandy Glass)
The school’s first intake of students was in January 2021. It currently accommodates 220 students with boarding facilities and access to medical care. It’s the only high school for miles around and is literally in the middle of nowhere says Sally:
‘We really are in a remote location. You will travel for about 45 mins by aircraft before you see anything other than a few village huts. We are in the foothills of the mountain range that runs through the centre of PNG – really rugged terrain and there’s absolutely nothing anywhere near us. There are no rivers or roads, so it takes us days and days to walk to anything.’
Sally Lloyd, Director of Strickland Bosavi Foundation
Mougulu Airstrip and surrounding village (credit: Jessica Hunt)
With education so hard to come by in this part of the world, school places are in high demand with students walking anywhere from three minutes to three days or more to reach their beloved boarding school. The vast majority board.
Teacher Judith Wavette taking a class (credit: Mandy Glass)
School library (credit: Mandy Glass)
A heart for helping others
Daughter of Australian missionaries Tom and Salome Hoey, Sally and her four siblings grew up in Mougulu where she has lived for more than 50 years.
With the help of MAF, her parents established the Mougulu Mission Station, built five airstrips, several health clinics, churches, primary schools, a radio station and a hydro-electric plant.
MAF used to fly Sally and her siblings to school in the Highlands, where they had the privilege of accessing an education far more superior to where she grew up. In Mougulu there was no secondary school.
Very early on, Sally learnt two things – the massive divide in education across PNG and how MAF could bridge the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’.
Her brothers Robert and Roy became MAF pilots, though Roy tragically died Christmas 1994 when his plane crashed into the ground.
Broken hearted but undeterred, Sally still felt compelled to improve the lives of young people in the region, particularly girls, through education.
PNG is a country where gender equality has a long way to go, where 30% of women are subjected to physical and / or sexual violence by their partner and where 27% of women in their twenties were forced into marriage before they were 18 (source: UN Women).
Treatment of women and girls has had a major impact on their education. With no local senior school, girls were walking for one week just to get an education, which made them very vulnerable explains Sally:
‘In the past, Mougulu girls were not safe travelling up to the Highlands to attend school. A lot of them were subjected to violence and abuse on the journey, so parents chose not to send their girls to senior school.
‘Everyone deserves an education, but I can only think of two women who have actually completed school and have gone on to have a career. It’s just so debilitating for the community – how can they develop when there is no access to education? Access is key.
‘So my husband Ian and I promised the young people here that we would help them get a secondary education.’
Education gives students a chance ‘to be part of PNG society’ (credit:Mandy Glass)
‘To be part of PNG society’
It was PNG’s huge earthquake in February 2018, which struck Hela Province, affecting over half a million people, which proved to be the catalyst (source: WHO).
Those who had sought an education elsewhere were forced to return to Mougulu so Sally had no choice but to act:
‘We just brought them back home and decided that we just had to go ahead and start the school as best we could. We had to try to increase their chances and give them what they really deserved – to be a part of PNG society.’
But how does one go about building a school in the middle of nowhere? ‘MAF’ says Sally:
‘Everything that comes here and everything we do has to arrive by light aircraft – that’s the only way we can get anything!
‘From the materials to actually build the school, school supplies, food to feed the students and teachers, to the teachers themselves, without air transport, we simply cannot function. MAF is a massive part of our ministry. We spend about 75% of our budget on freight.’
MAF has enabled the birth and growth of Nomad Mougulu High School. From corrugated iron roofing to classroom chairs to coffee, MAF has delivered it all and continues to support the school and the community of Mougulu.
MAF delivers corrugated iron roofing for school building (credit: Ryan Cole)
MAF delivers chairs and tyres for the community of Mougulu (credit: Sally Lloyd)
MAF delivers food, medical supplies and guitars! (credit: Mandy Glass)
Students are well into their twenties
Unlike the UK where students start secondary school at 11 or 12, most of the current students at Nomad Mougulu High School are well over the age of 20. Many are aged 25, but their oldest student is 29.
In a country where only 63% of adults can read or write (source: World Bank) and only 50% of girls transition into secondary school (source: UNICEF), repeating grades in rural PNG, is all too common.
Children love the plane but only 50% of girls will go to senior school (credit:Mandy Glass)
Despite their struggles, students at Nomad Mougulu High School are determined to finish their education, whatever it takes says Sally:
‘Some of our students have tried four or five times to complete their grade 9 (designed for 15-year-olds) but every time, they have either been displaced, suffered violence or abuse or simply haven’t had the funds, so they try year after year to complete their education. It shows how hard they’re trying to get a chance to be educated.
‘As the school is new, our age range is quite high at the moment but that will change over time when the older students will finally get the chance to move ahead. Next year, we’ll see younger ones coming in. We’ve got some 14-year-olds now – that’s the age we’re aiming for.’
Maika Yabua (centre) regularly teaches students who are aged 25 (credit: Mandy Glass)
MAF is a lifeline
Even after fifty years of development in Mougulu, Sally and the community still rely on MAF. Planes arrive most weeks packed to the brim with goods, essential for daily living but occasionally they have to wait longer, which is really hard:
‘We always love seeing the pilots come in! Occasionally we have a few weeks where we don’t get a plane and that’s difficult because that’s when we start to run out of food or supplies. It’s frustrating when you can’t get the basic things that you need. Long term, the school just wouldn’t be able to operate.’
Pilots Mathias Glass(L) & Joseph Tua(C) with local MAF agent Bila Bobowa(R) (credit:Mathias Glass)
Kitchen appliances loaded at Mount Hagen destined for Mougulu (credit: Annelie Edsmyr)
‘To be here without MAF, really, we would be in the dark. We wouldn’t be able to offer education to the students – they would struggle. They would be left behind and separated from the rest of society.
‘People die here if they can’t access a plane to get them out of here when they need further care – it’s just impossible. Nothing happens. Development doesn’t happen without the plane.’
Sally Lloyd, Director of Strickland Bosavi Foundation
Whether it’s food shortages, power cuts or lack of funds, it’s the young people that always keep Sally going:
‘We’ve got a great bunch of students. To see their appreciation, keenness to learn and willingness to participate, and the fact that they want to make a real difference for their own people – that really drives me. On the tough days, it’s that hope for a better, brighter future that keeps me going.’
Despite the occasional setbacks, Sally and the team have achieved so much and continue to transform the region with MAF’s support.
Hope for the future
Nomad Mougulu High School has big plans for 2023.
Teacher recruitment is high on the agenda and they will also be expanding their curriculum to incorporate years 10 to 12 (normally 16 to 18-year-olds).
A science lab and at least four more classrooms will be built to accommodate the growing demand for places. They are expecting over 300 students next year.
Building materials will be flown in by MAF to expand the school (credit: Mandy Glass)
This sawmill was flown by MAF in 2018 to help with building projects (credit: Mandy Glass)
More floorboards like these will be flown in to expand the school (credit: Sally Lloyd)
As ever, Sally will make the most of local labour and resources to achieve her goals but lots of materials will have to be flown in from the outside world:
‘We do operate a sawmill but for any building project we always need so many things brought in from sheets of roofing iron to nails. MAF will be flying those in for us. It’s going to be very busy and we look forward to MAF planes landing!’
In conclusion, Sally sums up her hopes and dreams:
‘I would really like to see our school grow so that we can give more opportunities to young people. My dream is for them to be included in PNG society, to have access to the things they need like a good education. I want to see them grow and improve their lives.’
MAF delivering supplies is central to Mougulu’s existence (credit: Sally Lloyd)
The community eagerly awaits Bibles to be unloaded (credit: Mandy Glass)
Join Sally Lloyd, science teacher Maika Yabua and deputy chief pilot Steven Biggs on ‘Flying For Life’ – MAF UK’s first ever 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.