Today was a truly rewarding experience for Lopoki Inc. to give back to my old high school, now known as ECOM Secondary School.
ECOM, for those who don’t know, stands for Evangelical Church of Manus. ECOM’s headquarters is located at Lugos station just 20 minutes ride outside of the Lorengau township. Early evangelical Liebenzelle missionaries of Germany set up here on Lugos station many years ago (around 1914) and since then the church has grown from Lugos to many parts of Manus. The high school was established on 4th February 1991 and after many years become a secondary school. I completed my grade 10 in 1996 at ECOM High.
Now after many years, I decided to come back and give back to my old high school. As a Divine Word University Alumni and with the guidance of the DWU Registrars office in Madang, I gave a presentation to three grade 12 classes about DWU life, courses and entry requirements. My idea was that my sessions would at least give the students an idea about DWU courses before they fill in their school leaver forms in a few weeks’ time, as most of you know, is now done online.
In these students, I saw myself from all those years ago so I was a bit emotional to see the place that gave me so much more than classroom education but life education as well. I had joined this school while we were at the old site at Lugos station. Our classrooms where sago thatched and when it rained we would move our desks to avoid rainwater falling on us. Coconuts, fruits trees like laulaus, five corner, sausap (I don’t know the English names of these fruit trees….lol) were in abundance and I used to climb all of them. We would wash in the creeks, road culverts and beaches surrounding the station. I met some beautiful souls at this school and really laughed a lot. I remember so well that myself and 9 other boys were appointed to look after broiler chickens at the chicken farm. When we went for Youth Ministry in town on Friday afternoons and came back in the night, the mess service would leave us food. We went on student led trips outreach and even went far as Lundret village up the Manus highway for boys retreat. We had nightly devotions led by students and even our favorite school chaplain, Mr. James Jonah gave us thought provoking sermons each weeknight.
Academically, I grew in confidence at this school. I now look back and say that we had some of the best and committed teachers given the state of the school as it was just beginning. Mr. Saramasi, Mr. Apo, Mr. Pere, Mrs. Lulu, Mr. Berger, Mrs Usu, Mr. Kwalo, Mrs Pokawin, Mr. Schuit and many others were our brilliant teachers. It was also a time when the school environment taught me how to study. All through my primary school and early high school, I didn’t know how to study to score good marks but when I came to ECOM, that changed. I saw how students would write notes and reflect on them at night. Many others slept early and woke up in the middle of the night to study their notes too. I began to enjoy science and maths though as the teachers were great. We had both male and female students take Home Economics and Practical skills, which, many of the things I learnt in those two subjects, I still keep in my life.
But all that was in the mid 1990s. The school these days has become a secondary school and a major trainer and educator of students from all over the province. It has grown immensely through great leadership and hard working staff, students and the local Dungoumasih community. It has moved to the new site which is where it is now situated and its buildings are permanent and can hold larger number of students. There are more teachers houses and the student intakes are much higher. I know talking to students is my small way of giving back to the school that gave me so much. I hope I can continue to give back more in the coming years.
I would like to firstly thank the Principal Mr. Ponowan for allowing me to come back to the school to share to the students. I would also like to give a big word of thanks to the Deputy Principal Administration, Mr. Koeu for slotting me into the relevant school timetable and also to his family for accommodating me during the two days I stayed at the school.
I hope Lopoki Inc. is given the opportunity to do the sessions again next year and maybe do the same to the other secondary schools in Manus as well. I still want to go to Papitalai Secondary and maybe Manus Secondary too.