LEONARD FONG ROKA | Supported by the Jeff Febi Writing Fellowship
PAUL DISIN WAS BORN in Madang in 1987 from mixed Bougainville and Madang parentage. In 1989, even as Bougainville sank into civil war, he moved with his family to Siwai in south Bougainville, where his dad comes from.
Since then Paul has never met his matrilineal relatives of Madang, but this does not affect him. He says Bougainville is where he belongs.
On 3 March, Paul graduated from Divine Word University. He’s happy and proud to have made it this far after all the hardship experienced in his education back in Bougainville.
“I am very happy,” he told me in the dormitory we share along with other undergraduates from south Bougainville, “and looking forward to repaying my parents for the hard times they had caring for me. I also want to contribute to the development and peace-building process on my island.”
From 2002-05 Paul did his secondary schooling at Hutjena on Buka Island. In 2007 he enrolled in the University of Papua New Guinea doing economics and computing. But in 2009 he decided to leave UPNG and entered the Divine Word University in Madang.
In Madang he took up bachelor degree program in rural health that paves the way to be a Health Extension Officer, responsible for bringing health services in PNG to the rural setting.
Before coming to Madang for his graduation he was offered a job as Residency Health Extension Officer (RHEO) at Buka General Hospital where he says he had witnessed many issues that have the potential to negatively affect Bougainville health delivery mechanisms.
“In the Buka General Hospital there is no unity in the health profession,” he said. “The Residency Medical Officers see us, the RHEO, as nobodies. I feel sad working in such an environment where we are supposed to have a collective effort to bring health services to the people of Bougainville.”
To Paul, the Autonomous Bougainville Government needs to work hard to make the health services delivery mechanism proactive.
“The health care system of ABG need improvement; like medical officers need short courses to get them up to date with medical development around the world,” he said.
“Bougainville health care does not much reach the community level but stops around district level thus people are not aware and left to the sting of health breakdowns, and so the community suffers. Health services in Bougainville need to go down to the people in the rural areas.”
Paul said his studies at DWU did greatly help him and he is doing fine. But since the classroom environment is different from the hospital wards, he is still adapting.
Furthermore, he is preparing to personally monitor and collect tuberculosis data on Bougainville with a hope to study the trends of the illness and initiate something to address the issue.
During his days at Buka hospital a patient died before him and the incident made him feel guilty. “It was my first week on duty and there were no professionals around in the middle of the night,” he said.
“The asthmatic patient was with two nurses when death crept in. I was called with the man struggling to breathe.
“I was shocked because I did not know where to locate the resources to attempt to resuscitate him. The nurses, who had served for ages in the hospital, only looked at me. We lost the man. I was guilty.”
Paul also saw a few medical officers in Buka General Hospital he refers to as ‘academic boasters’.
“ABG is slack,” he complained. “It should not allow such childish people to enter Bougainville. What Bougainville needs are those that help Bougainville move towards its ambition, that is independence with a healthy community and population.”
“Bougainville has enough medical professionals working in other places and it only needs to bring them in instead of letting the people we fought and died against into our midst.”
After telling me his tales and dreams, Paul left for Bougainville, the home he loves, with a will to contribute to its development.