PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Oct. 9, 1999 – The National)---Starving Grade 12 students of Sogeri National High School will now be able to have decent meals thanks to a donation from the Salvation Army.

The Salvos yesterday presented 20 bags of rice and another 20 cartons of tinned fish, at a cost of more than K 2, 500 (US$ 500).

The supply should keep the students going until the end of their Grade 12 external examinations next week. The school still needs a supply of biscuits for breakfast.

A tearful principal, Dr. Laevai Nuendorf, when receiving the food, challenged his students to give back to the Salvation Army whenever the Army knocked on their doors.

Dr. Nuendorf told the students the situation should never have happened, as teachers were not responsible for feeding, but the government was.

Despite the situation, Dr. Nuendorf thanked the staff and students for being so patient.

Students told the Post-Courier that many of them were not satisfied with the two pieces of biscuits they had been eating for breakfast for the past weeks.

They said this was not enough to hold their concentration in class, with many feeling hungry before lunch.

"After periods one and two, everybody's hungry. Most of us, especially the boys, don't attend classes because of hunger,'' they said.

The students confirmed that the two scoops of rice and a bit of tinned fish served to them at lunch were not enough too.

One student explained she felt dizzy after donating blood to the blood bank last week because she did not have breakfast.

The students have put their education first, refusing to give in easily saying, "Education is our priority. We've just been going with the flow. We've come this far. We cannot give up.’’

Another female student said, "This is history for many of us. When we think of what our parents are eating, we have tears in our eyes.’’

The students reassured their parents that they were ready to sit for the exams next week.

The Salvation Army's community relations secretary, Captain Sere Kala, said this donation was a rare occasion for the organization as it was only involved with supporting the needy and not government funded institutions.

He said the Salvation Army was concerned about the quality of the nation's youth who would be tomorrow's parents and leaders.

Education Secretary Peter Baki said he was aware of the shortfalls in money faced by national high schools.

Initially, he had ordered a closure of the schools.

He said the school administration should have approached his office to highlight the problem.

Mr. Baki said he would have brought the external exams forward instead of awaiting the scheduled date.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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