In 1997, I was selected with 12 other students from the then ECOM High School to come do our grade 11 at Papitalai Secondary School. With the rest of the other students from Papitalai High School itself, Manus High School, the then Bundrahei High School and the then Manus School of the Air (SOTA), we all formed two classes of Papitalai Secondary’s pioneer class.
In grade 10, I put my first choice on the School Leaver Form to go to Lae Technical College to do a Technical Certificate in Butchery. However, after completing grade 10 at ECOM High, I soon found out that my dream of becoming a butcher would not emerge. I would be continuing on to Papitalai as the plans by higher powers in the Provincial Government system had put in place a secondary school, the first in Manus.
During the mid 1990s, Papitalai High School was the school to be in. Established and managed by Catholic Church and its affiliated groups, it was immaculately managed and its annual ‘Fete’ was the talk of the province. Its buildings were well kept and the students well disciplined. In 1997, the high school level changed to the secondary level which meant the school would now accept grade 11 and 12s. This is where my story at Papitalai began.
Our first teachers were brilliant and hardworking. They brought to light the wonders of science, mathematics, history, geography and the lot. Sr. Catherine, Mrs. Pondikou, Mr. Turuhe, Mr. Chapok, Mr. Kumba, Ms. Loman are the few that come to mind. They were professional in attire, in demeanor and in timeliness. Papitalai Secondary chose well in recruiting these outstanding individuals to be our first teachers.
In two years, I learnt about the Papitalai School way of life. Cutting firewood at fuel pump and walking all the way back to drop it at the school mess was the first lesson on hard work. Cutting grass at the coconut plantation each morning for work parade before breakfast was another. Digging out coconut trunks for punishment was another. Some students were really good fisherman and hunters so they had fish or cuscus respectively, each weekend. For social activities, we had the annual school sports, the almighty cross country marathon, the once in a while school dance which lasted only one hour; the catholic feast days and the famous school fete. It was a well rounded education esteemed in the Catholic philosophy and ethos.
So coming back after all these years was exciting. To come back and see the place that housed me, fed me, nurtured me and gave me a foundation for life was heartwarming. I had decided to come back to talk about Divine Word University courses and entry requirements to the Grade 12 students. The session was to help the students think about DWU as an option if they wanted to continue their education at the tertiary level. Mr. Pius Londron, the Deputy Principal Academic, arranged for the trip to be possible since I live in the village and have to travel to Lorengau then to Papitalai which is in the Los Negros area of Manus.
I talked to two groups of students in the Audiovisual room. I talked about some facts about DWU and then focused on the courses at the four faculties of DWU – Faculty of Business & informatics, Faculty of Arts and Social Science, Faculty of Education and Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. The students asked questions about courses, entry requirements, subject combinations and courses at the four campuses of DWU.
All in all, I really enjoyed talking to the students. It is a small way I can give back to the school in the best way I know how. I am living in the village now so I believe going to give the talk is time well spent. It is also my hope that at least the talk provides a spark to these young people who might, not only eventually go to DWU, but more importantly, know that life doesn’t end when you don’t get an offer after grade 12. After grade 12, the choice to fight on and become successful in life must always be the dream. I gave them the example of myself where I did not get any offers after grade 12 at Papitalai and had to go back and stay in the village. I lived in the village for a year and then through the grace of God, I started my education again, found work and some 20 years later was here again to tell them to ‘never give up’. Life did really come full circle!