PNG CENTERS GIVE KIDS PUSHED OUT OF SCHOOL A SECOND CHANCE

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By Paul Nengai Divine Word University Journalism

MADANG, Papua New Guinea (August 30, 2001 - Diwai/PINA Nius Online)---At 8:00 a.m. on a Friday, 16-year-old Marianne Goak was at the counter of the College of Distance Education Center preparing to sit for an English exam.

"I am not afraid because I have studied very hard and I am sure I will do it well. I am happy to have my second chance in education through the College of Distance Education," she said.

Miss Goak and thousands of others around Papua New Guinea were pushed out of the formal learning system after failing their Grade Six exam. Now many school dropouts are getting a second chance in government-subsidized courses run through College of Distance Education centers.

It has given them hope to continue their education instead of being idle at home.

The Madang provincial College of Distance Education Center is well established. The director, Mrs. Rose Ware, taught in high schools for more than a decade before taking up the post early this year. "This CODE Center is rated as one of the best in the country," Mrs. Warre said.

Seventeen-year-old Lukas Sinari said: "We are lucky to have this center. I started doing Grade Nine subjects last year and I am pleased with my results so far."

The Madang center serves about 2,000 students who left school at Grades Six, Eight and Ten. Each subject costs K 70 (US$ 21), but students pay K 30 (US$ 9) and K 40 (US$ 12) is subsidized by the National Government.

Some continue to the matriculation program while others go to colleges or look for jobs. If they fail, students are given a third chance - or they depart for good if their marks are too low.

The center’s walls have pasted on them pictures and posters and inspirational sayings. One reads: "Education is key to life today." And the spiritual aspect is not forgotten as another reads: "God, you are source of all knowledge, help us."

When a student fails, it can cause depression, a fit of frustration and loss of hope. Some students go to the extreme of contemplating suicide if they have worked hard for something and end up failing. But relief is at hand if there is a second chance.

Miss Goak felt that way but now she is relieved to have another way to continue her education. "My first born sister failed in Grade Six and she is at home. I am second born. I failed my final Grade Six exam too in 1999.

"When I failed I thought that it was the end of me. I also thought I would go nowhere but remain in the village like my elder sister. Moreover, I was afraid of my parents too. My parents were angry with me but what could I do, it was the only exam and I failed it."

Ernest Tumbum, 18, from Kinimbong village in Middle Ramu, is now doing Grade Ten subjects at the center and says:

"I used to feel ashamed and worried when I saw my classmates coming home from high schools and tertiary institutions. But now I am not worried any more because I am also doing my Grade Ten subjects at the CODE. Now I have a second chance, so I will do my best to learn."

But even with such motivated students, Mrs. Warre admits there are problems.

She said: "Students are performing very, very low. There are no tutorials given to students. As CODE is a distance learning process, all students stay at home and do their courses. There is still no close supervision given to the students."

Despite these concerns, for parents like Anna Koil, the center still offers hope. Mrs. Koil’s daughter Serah is repeating Grade Nine. "I am happy that this center is here and that is helping my daughter. It is up to Serah to finish the CODE and look for a job," she said.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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