School journey: Walking the miles with smiles

By Helen Tuka, Communications & Advocacy, Madang Province, World Vision Papua New Guinea

Children wake to the set alarm of roosters echoing over the hilltops. From the highlands to the coast, similar realities are true for children especially in the most remote parts of Papua New Guinea. Determined youngsters from Noupi, Bema and other nearby villages eager to learn and be educated for life, often pay the price of walking distances unimaginable.

In Usino Bundi, Madang Province children walk to school for hours on remote roads. Their small feet brave the rocky dirt roads for two to three hours every day. It’s even more challenging on rainy days.

Despite these realities, they take to their school desks a heart to learn. “Aa, ber, ca, dah….” echoes and bounces off the walls of the Community Learning Centre (CLC).

“I make sure I’m here at the CLC by 7:30am each day, because it’s the children from Noupi and Bema, those furthest villages that always arrive on time, even before I arrive sometimes. They are the reason why I strive to give them the best I can give,” says teacher Mr. Biam.

"I have blisters sometimes when I walk. When I get home from school I am so tired to do my homework but the next morning I can’t wait to go to back school." - Sandra, age 7.

The CLC also acts as a community resource centre for adult literacy and life skills training for adults and out-of-school youth. It encourages them to become responsive and active citizens.

“I am always so blessed to see my students come to school every day. I teach them the different sounds using phonics learning. They have done really well and they continue to surprise me each day,” said Teacher Edna. With support from the Education Management Committee, Edna sees teaching as not just something to do, but rather, a mission.

As the children begin their journey homeward, their small feet ready to walk for hours, an airplane approaches in the sky above. Aloisia (polka dot top), said, "See that plane up in the sky, I will fly it one day.”