Algonda Bonnie, Kuem Village
Access to a good quality basic education in Western Province continues to be one of the major hindrances to the province’s growth.
This sad scenario has been a continuous battle for the province since the nation’s independence and all this despite the fact that the province is home to one of the world’s largest copper mines – the Ok Tedi mine.
Despite the mine being in operation for more than 30 years and contributing significantly to the national and the provincial governments in terms of dividends and royalties there is little to show for this potential wealth in terms of health and education.
The need to improve education remains a challenge. Many schools do not have proper schooling materials such as desks, text books and teaching resources. The deteriorating state or complete absence of classroom facilities, libraries and teachers’ houses further emphasises this grim reality. The geography of the province is also a contributing factor, teachers become isolated with no access to basic services the world takes for granted like electricity for classroom lighting, a flushing toilet and a chilled glass of water.
But despite these difficulties, schools still operate and students still try their best within their humble means to do well in school, aspiring to careers beyond their small remote villages.
Children like Algonda Bonnie (pictured) do not see these difficulties as obstacles that could deprive their right to an education and a better future. Ms Bonnie attends the Kuem Primary School located in the Middle Fly region, a school recently adopted by the Trinity Anglican School of Cairns, Australia, under the OTDF Adopt a School program. Kuem is now being developed as a model primary school for the Middle Fly region.
The only means of accessibility into Kuem Primary School is from the Fly River on an outboard motor powered dinghy which would normally take 40 minutes along a pristine tributary that is a ‘Jurassic Park’ like reminder to newcomers.
Ms Bonnie’s success in school can not only be attributed to her hard work and motivation but also her community who have a commitment to the administration of the school and teacher support.
The 18-year-old, who is now doing her Grade Eight hopes to continue into Secondary School so that she can pursue her dream of becoming a lawyer, a profession that very few Western Province children have attained, let alone women.
Ms Bonnie has been doing well in core subjects like English and Maths. In 2011, on completing Grade Seven she received awards in the two subjects and she hopes to finish her primary schooling in flying colours and to qualify for secondary education.
There is nothing secret about her success as she lamented.
“My village and school do not have electricity supply nor does it have a water supply like other schools,” she said.
“But that has not deterred me from doing my best in school. Not having these necessities doesn’t mean life will not continue. At least I have a kerosene lamp or the fire light or even the sun light, I can still continue to complete my assignments and study harder”.
Her parents, father Benjamin Bonnie and mother Paschline are more than aware of their daughter’s dream of becoming a lawyer and have supported her all throughout her schooling life.
“All we want for our daughter is to receive a good education. We believe that by giving her our full support, she can one day fulfil her dream of becoming a lawyer,” her mother said.
Ms Bonnie is also grateful that her school is being chosen as a model school in Western Province and hopes her determination to excel in her schooling will be a shining example to others in her village and the province that despite the many difficulties, children of Western Province can still excel in life.