Historically, Adventist school principals in Papua New Guinea have participated in an annual study tour of outstanding schools in Australia and New Zealand—the idea is to challenge and inspire the principals to boost their own performance and that of their teachers and students. But this year, for the first time, the principals visited an outstanding Adventist school in their own country.
Located near Mount Hagen in the Western Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea, Paglum Adventist High School was recently awarded the maximum five-year accreditation from the South Pacific Division (SPD), although it is still improving its infrastructure and facilities. This award is a first for Papua New Guinea and is shared with another outstanding Adventist school, Carr Memorial Primary in Port Moresby.
I have learned that I am not just a teacher but a missionary teacher. And that makes me an agent of change.
That Paglum is such an exemplary school is nothing short of miraculous. In 2007 it was one of the worst performing schools in the region academically. Tribal fighting in the area had led to conflict on campus, staff and student morale was dismal and enrolments were so low that Adventist education administrators were considering closing the school down.
Today Paglum is one of the top academic schools in the province, with a new computer lab and having added Year 12 just this year. The school has a strong student work program focused on its gardens and is well on the way to self-sufficiency for its meals. Energetic young principal Robinson Lanza has initiated a strong spiritual program at the school and is enthusiastically tackling the challenges of water supply, ageing facilities and over-full classrooms.
“The decision was formally made at the Papua New Guinea Union Mission (PNGUM) Board of Education on May 31 to take our principals this year to Paglum so they could see Robinson in action,” said SPD assistant education director David McClintock in the lead-up to the tour. “They could be inspired and implement what he does at their schools. The principals are working in the context of the same culture and they all face similar problems. Robinson has looked at the problems and found solutions.”
And from all accounts, the decision has produced the desired results. A team of nine principals, including PNGUM associate education directors Yoba Dame and Serah Keliwin, spent four days at Paglum touring the school and engaging with staff and students.
“There used to be some things unique to Adventist schools in PNG but most schools have lost them. Paglum, however, is reviving these activities and that’s what makes it unique,” said tour coordinator Serah Keliwin.
“Paglum has a 100 voice choir made up of students. They have a staff choir. They run a very good vocational skills program. There is teamwork amongst teachers and students and the SRC (Student Representative Council) is doing a great job. They have a prayer house and you can sense the spiritual atmosphere in the school. That is what I want in Inonda,” said Inonda Adventist High School principal Amelia Baruga.
The tour ended on a high note with the principals challenged to improve their schools with what they had learned from the tour. Kabiufa Adventist Secondary School principal Steiner Korarome said, “I have learned that I am not just a teacher but a missionary teacher. And that makes me an agent of change. I have to humble myself and listen to the voice of God to be His agent.”
PNGUM is planning to take the principals on another tour next year to Devare Adventist High School in Bougainville.