It's time for school

Sometimes it only takes one determined person to bring about dramatic transformation. Olokolas Sisim, of the Pamosu language community, is such a man.

In 2000 Olokolas attended a literacy course run by SIL and got the idea to start a school for his community. Perene is a remote village in the Adelbert mountain range, a two-day hike and three-hour drive from Madang town. There was no school in the area and few people were educated, but Olokolas believes that education is the key to development. So with the help of his community, and SIL workers Liaw Yong Lam and Chai Sheau Jiuang, Olokolas started a prep class with thirty children.

Over the next few years the school grew, adding further grades and students, but Olokolas knew he needed trained teachers for the higher grades. In 2004 he made the journey to Madang, to seek help from the Education Department. The following year, he became the local ‘Kaunsil’ (councilman) and started raising funds for the school.

Despite the school’s growth, the lack of an official operational code was a problem, so in 2011, Olokolas bought a plane ticket to Port Moresby and met with education department officials. He was successful. In 2012 the school was granted its own operational code, now proudly displayed on the school sign.

Emal Primary School currently has over 200 students in seven grades and plans to add Grades 8 and 9 soon. Several Pamosu youth have gone on to High School and one has completed Grade 12. Community support for the school is strong, with workdays, a parent-teacher board, and a business that supports the school—which could not have happened without literacy and numeracy skills learned at the school.

The community has changed dramatically, reports Chai. Health, hygiene and infant mortality rates have vastly improved. Education has led to a higher standard of living for all.

Olokolas has a vision for development in rural communities across the nation. He urges the government to listen to the needs of remote communities and to support them with education and health services - for the good of the whole nation.