Papua New Guinea – MAF’s work put on school curriculum during pandemic

Published: 14 Jul 2020

Aerial view of Oksapmin Secondary School and Tekin Primary School in PNG

MAF has partnered with Oksapmin Secondary School for thirteen years in the remote PNG village of Tekin, but for the first time, MAF has found its way onto the curriculum of one of the country’s best performing schools. MAF PNG’s Comms Officer, Mandy Glass, came up with the initiative during the pandemic… 

Last year, Oksapmin Secondary School in Tekin – a rural school in PNG’s West Sepik Province – topped the list of best performing schools in the country (source: EMTV).

This year, during the world’s unprecedented coronavirus crisis, the school was forced to close and do things differently like thousands of other schools across the globe.

Tekin can only be reached by air – aircraft is its only accessible mode of transport from outside the village.

During lockdown, this fact got MAF PNG’s Comms Officer, Mandy Glass, thinking.

Creative Mandy came up with an assignment for the students at Oksapmin School. Why not get them to write about the work of MAF and how MAF has been supporting their community during the pandemic?

Oksapmin Secondary School student

Challenge accepted!

Mandy approached Glenda Giles, the school’s founder and teacher, and mooted the idea. Glenda loved it.

Glenda asked her Year 11 students to think about who or what MAF has been transporting to and from Tekin Airport during the pandemic. How has MAF been supporting the surrounding communities and contributing to the area’s development? The students got very creative and came up with scenarios from their past experience.

Maro and Jackson’s assignment

 Maro: ‘I hear an aeroplane overhead!’

 Jackson: ‘Oh yes! That sounds like a MAF Caravan! I wonder why it’s coming this time?’

 Maro: ‘Perhaps they’re bringing textbooks, stationery, encyclopaedias, Bibles, dictionaries, furniture, desks, rice, flour, noodles, tinned fish, soap, cooking oil, kettles or tools?’

 Jackson: ‘Or perhaps they’re dropping off or picking up people. Who do you think might be coming or going?’

 Maro: ‘Maybe they’re carrying teachers. Rumour has it that three secondary school teachers from Wewak are arriving on Monday. Or perhaps it’s an emergency. Do you remember when MAF has helped in an emergency?’

 Jackson: ‘Yes, my mother had an accident. She cut her left foot with an axe when she was breaking firewood. She lost a lot of blood, but the health workers from Tekin’s clinic were unable to help and didn’t have enough anaesthetics. MAF flew her to Telefomin Hospital.

Everyone calls us “las ples” because we are so remote. It’s risky for them too because it’s often cloudy and windy here.’ 

‘MAF helps us to make our long distances shorter’

More students mentioned how MAF was helping in other ways during the pandemic:

  • ‘people bringing important messages about coronavirus’
  • ‘bringing medicine like penicillin’
  • ‘coffins for people who have died’
  • ‘transporting things to relatives far away’
  • ‘computers’
  • water tanks
  • ‘emergency food’
  • ‘clean clothes’
  • ‘livestock’
  • ‘exam papers’
  • ‘many vegetables so people can have good diets’

 After hearing everyone’s ideas about what exactly MAF planes deliver, one student said:

'Ok! Now I understand! MAF helps us to make our long distances shorter, instead of walking a long way with our cargo.’

Hand washing stations have become the ‘new normal’ at Oksapmin Secondary School.

The ‘new normal’

Schools in Papua New Guinea resumed on 4th May. At Oksapmin Secondary School, Glenda has had to explain the 'new normal' to parents and students. Hand washing stations have been installed accordingly.

Essential passenger air travel resumed on 28th July.

‘The most important thing you have taught us is how to become good men and women for the future. It’s not just about learning. You have moulded and shaped us to become somebody special. You gave us advice, correction and care. We thank you very much.’

2014 Head Boy during graduation ceremony

History of Oksapmin Seconday School

Oksapmin Secondary School opened in 2007. Its founder, Glenda Giles, is an educationalist and missionary from New Zealand. Prior to Oksapmin, she successfully founded Green River Christian High School in Papua New Guinea’s West Sepik Province and two other schools.

For many years, in order to continue their education after primary school, the children of Tekin were forced to leave their remote valley for towns like Wewak, Aitape, Vanimo or Telefomin.

This meant children were leaving home at a very young age to attend boarding school or stay with relatives who lived in closer proximity to the schools. The logistics, school fees and minimal means of communication, had a psychological and financial impact on families. Children often struggled at school.    

Oksapmin School made possible by MAF

Glenda Giles answered God’s call and partnered with MAF to build a secondary school in one of the remotest places on earth.

Since the beginning, MAF has flown - and continues to fly - building materials, school supplies, teachers and food into Tekin.

Today, if young people decide to leave Tekin for bigger cities, they are more prepared and mature having completed their secondary school education.

To date, the school has 300 students taught by 15 teachers. Glenda continues to equip and train teachers for leadership positions.

Plans are afoot to move the school into more permanent buildings and to create teachers‘ accommodation within the next two years.

As ever, MAF is ready to help.