Like many young women in the 1980s, Debbra Harong planned to complete her education and secure a good job. But the Bougainville crisis interrupted her plans.
The conflict forced Debbra to leave her high school and relocate with her family to New Ireland Province, where she was able to complete grade 10.
As peace was restored to Bougainville, Debbra returned and began volunteering as a Tok Ples teacher in Reito village in North Bougainville. She then began teaching kindergarten and early learning.
Debbra longed to become a qualified teacher, but with only a grade 10 certificate, she could not secure a paid role.
She decided to complete her training, and in 2007, completed a certificate in Early Childhood Education
with Teacher Direct Training and the PNG Education Institute.
After that, Debbra was able to come back and teach full time as an early grade teacher for Reito Elementary School.
Debbra loves teaching and wants to ensure the next generation of Bougainvilleans complete their early grade education to Grade 12 and beyond.
“I enjoy teaching because I witnessed how many students had their education disrupted during the crisis, and how that contributed to low levels of literacy, growth and development for many years.”
Debbra feels great satisfaction when she hears her students speak fluent English in grade 2 and go on to perform well in primary and secondary schools.
She is ‘a happy teacher’ at the end of the day because she is achieving her goal of sharing knowledge and building a strong foundation for future generations.
Lilian Raphael, from Namatoa village in Tinputz, another early grade teacher, agrees. She believes early grade education is a crucial building block for the future brains of Bougainville.
Lilian joined the local Namatoa Women’s Group in 1986 after she completed her schooling at Hutjena High School. She was eager to ensure women were empowered to improve their lives.
Lilian became the women’s group secretary and encouraged the group to build life skills and income-generating activities, such as sewing, cooking, baking and financial literacy.
When a new elementary school opened in the community, Lilian put her hand up to volunteer as a teacher. She completed her Early Childhood Education certificate in 2002 and has now been teaching for 21 years at Puskaotou Elementary.
Both Debbra and Lilian benefited from past investments in building the capacity of early grade teachers through the Papua New Guinea-Australia Partnership. They have seen improved literacy and numeracy outcomes for their students.
They are grateful to now be part of the first cohort of 140 early grade teachers in Bougainville to undergo a three-day intensive Standard Based Curriculum Bilum Books training program.
Both women said the training would strengthen their teaching capabilities in the early grades.
The course was delivered by Bilum Books, with funding from the Partnerships for Improving Education Program, through the PNGAusPartnership.