A simple step can change a life

Here are just a sample of stories we want to share with you about some of the high school students in a remote part of Papua New Guinea who leave their homes each year to walk 300kms to get to their closest school. On this journey they navigate difficult terrain and encounter extreme hostility from rival tribes – encounters which often lead to violence and abuse. This type of scenario is common in third-world countries all over the world.

Walk for hope

There are many young female students around Mogulu who will not, or are not allowed to, travel to school for fear of emotional, physical or sexual abuse.

Young girls return from school each term pregnant, bruised and broken. Preyed on by men in opportunistic crimes, taking advantage of young women without the security and protection of family and community.

One young girl returns to the mission station by plane, delivered back to her home on medical evacuation. Her face bears a bandage covering the cuts she received at the hands of men who had ambushed her, along with her father and brother, on the road as they trekked to start the new school year some 300km’s away. The men beat her family members before attempting to assault her. Amazingly they each escaped, battered but alive and able to seek help nearby.

Even more sobering is the realisation that this is not a unique occurrence. This continues to happen whenever these young women are forced to travel outside their community, displaced hundreds of kilometres, to hostile environments, just to continue their education.

Walk for a secure future

A group of young men shares the difficult stories of their education. They look to be in their late 20’s even though they are about to start grade 8 and 9.

They tell story after story of a school life filled with conflict, fear, and abuse. By traveling the almost 300Km’s to school, these young men become totally removed from family and a heritage that not only protects them but provides important cultural structures for discipline, respect and life together.

When men from this area have to travel the 5 days by foot they will inherently move through land that is not of their people. This poses many issues for the young men with payback violence and extreme tribalism still an ever-present undertone of life here. Unfortunately, the schools are not in the lands of friendly tribes and physical altercations are a constant reminder of this tension.

The men tell of having to leave the library as they study at night, driven out by violent members of other groups. One exclaims “there is fighting, always fighting”, “It is very hard for us to study”. Multiple times they have had to close their books and flee to relative safety, locking themselves in dormitories or hiding where they can. Unable to study or even participate in social life for fear of retaliation and violence, they live an untenable existence in these local yet foreign places without community, loved ones, security or safety.

Walk for education

One timid girl quietly introduces herself as Anne. “I have finished grade 8 but I had to stop. I did not have the money for school fees”. “How much are the fees?” she is asked. 1200 Kina, the equivalent of $AUD 600.

That is all it costs to educate and house Anne for the whole academic year. On top of this, we learn that her school, which lies a full weeks walk away, was rendered unusable by the 2017 7.2 magnitude earthquake that devastated this part of Papua New Guinea. The epicentre of the disaster lies at the foot of distant mountains but its destruction will impact generations to come as the government and NGOs struggle to repair decimated infrastructure. “Where are your parents? What do they do?”. She calmly replies, ”My father he died… My mother left”. There is deep silence as Anne tells how she lives with her older brothers who have no means to support or provide for her daily needs, let alone find $AUD 600 a year to continue her education. A local school will allow her to live in free accommodation with the support of her wider family and community.

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Please note that in the unlikely event a specific appeal becomes overfunded, surplus funds will be redirected towards a similar relief or community development project.

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