LAST weekend I journeyed with Jane Pumai Awi of the University of Goroka to her home village of Ganige.
Ganige is in the Kerowagi District of Simbu Province, situated on the Highlands Highway not far from the border with Jiwaka Province.
I was there to help Jane with a Kids Club she has established and also to assist her carry out a survey for a health clinic she plans to bring to the people of Ganige.
We left Goroka at 4 pm on Friday arriving at Ganige around six. We spent the night in Jane’s cosy residence which adjoins her shop.
The shop serves the local community and the nearby Police mobile squad barracks as well as weary travellers who need coffee and biscuits to sustain them as they travel along the highway between Lae and Mt Hagen.
On Saturday, some 30 kids from a nearby community school arrived with their teachers and parents.
We started the session at about 2pm in the afternoon. Janei briefly introduced me to the group. She explained the reason we were there and elaborated on the importance of education.
We then divided the 30 young people into two groups. The younger children went with Jane to sing songs and rhymes while I took the children aged from 8 – 19.
I gave a pep talk on reading as an excellent gateway to academic superiority and mastering the English language.
After the talk, questions were asked especially on accessibility to good books that would enhance their mastery of English.
Only 5% said they had access to good reading books, among them a Grade 11 student who had just finished reading The Two Mountains by Brian Tieber, a colleague at the University of Goroka and an up-and-coming PNG novelist.
Later I took a group of kids involved in Sunday school sessions. They were encouraged to recite their memory verses while Jane took a group of boys talented in drawing and painting. There was another group of little kids and toddlers who also took part in singing and rhyming. At the end of the session they came back together to show their talents and skills.
Then Jane gave a talk on the importance of education and questionnaires were handed out to the parents and the people in the community as part of a survey to establish a clinic for the people of Ganige.
Since most of the people were illiterate the older kids helped by asking questions and filling out the questionnaires for their elders. Forty-three questionnaires were collected in the vicinity of the market.
Jane will prepare a proposal based on the survey requesting funding from the government to establish a health clinic.
We finished at around 5:30pm and spent Saturday night at Jane’s residence. The next day we travelled back to Goroka.
I believe that what Jane is doing is a first of its kind in Simbu: bringing knowledge back to empower young people in the village and also help deliver services to her home village to better the lives of grassroots citizens.
I will be working with her in future as part of the team to do community work in Ganige and we have planned to set up a mini-library in the village so that kids will be able to borrow good books.
Ruth Kamasungua is a Lecturer attached to the Language and Literature Department at the University of Goroka. She graduated from the University of Papua New Guinea with a BA in English Communication and a BA Honours in Literature. Jane Awi is a lecturer at the university and also a member of the Crocodile Prize Organising Group, COG. She is now completing doctoral studies at Queensland University of technology