LEONARD FONG ROKA | Supported by the Jeff Febi Writing Fellowship
ON THE INSIDE COVER of Moses Summa’s notebook is the line: The more difficulties one has to encounter, within and without, the more significant and the higher in inspiration his life will be—Horace Bushnell.
I read these words as I sat alongside him, eager to find out a little more about Bougainvillean Moses Summa, who was sweating with joy.
On 3 March, Divine Word University (DWU) held its 31st graduation ceremony for more than 1,000 students from around Papua New Guinea and a few from the Solomon Islands.
After the ceremony, fellow Bougainvilleans marched into my room where I accommodated them, their joy at graduating burning as magnesium.
Moses comes from Boku village in the Baitsi area of Baba Constituency in the Bana District in South Bougainville. He was born in his village in 1968 and is married with one child.
He undertook his primary education at the Catholic church-run Boku community school from 1976-81; then went to high school at Buin from 1982-85. At high school, however, he failed his exams but managed to move on to the Panguna mine where he secured a job with Bougainville Copper Limited as driver of a 170 tonne Euclid haul truck, as well as other plant, until May 1989 when the landowners forcefully shut the mine.
During the chaos of the Bougainville conflict, he remained at home in Boku from the early 1990s until 1993, when the PNG troops landed in the area. In the resultant calm in this part of Bougainville, Moses left home and went to Buka, then to Port Moresby to further his education.
But all his efforts failed, so he returned home. But, still with a passion, to further his academic credentials, he returned to Port Moresby in 1995 and sponsored himself into the Institute of Public Administration from which he graduated in 1996.
During the peak of the Sandline Crisis in 1997, Moses secured a job at Buka Hospital as its revenue officer. Then in 2009 he applied for a degree in management through the Faculty of Flexible Learning at DWU, and his joy was in his achievement of this goal.
Handing me his degree certificate, Moses said, “I am happy that I achieved a milestone in my life. This paper is a motivation for me to contribute more to our island and its development and nationhood.
“Being a failure in high school did not matter to me; it was a stepping stone to carry on with a positive mindset.”
Moses said Bougainville needs more educated, positive thinking Bougainvilleans if it is to realise the fruits of its long history of political and economic struggle and suffering.
“We need high investment in education,” he said, “and we need an education system that can create Bougainvilleans by heart and not puppets who run away from our island’s suffering looking for peace and high wages in PNG.”
Moses is frustrated by what he sees as the lack of creativity in education development of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and the churches. He feels the same about Bougainvillean graduates’ reasons for not returning home.
“We created the ABG in 2005 but so far it has not invested in educational development on our island. If it has no money, give the job to the churches but the churches are also sleeping despite our loud talk for referendum.
“I am so sick of listening to people talking of the Catholic church giving a piece of land to DWU at Mabiri. When will they establish that? Bougainvilleans need to be educated in a Bougainvillean environment.
“And we sell our people to PNG, where they become puppets who run after money and forget the fact their island needs them.
“A Bougainvillean who comes to PNG must return home and create his job in Bougainville. If we want Bougainville to remain ours, let’s suffer and create development from the little capabilities we have.”
Moses Summa has returned, with his new management degree, to his work at the Buka General Hospital.