400 PNG Students Locked Out Of Port Moresby Catholic School

'Illegally' opened school never had agreement to use Community Development Department building

By Nellie Setepano

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, May 5, 2017) – The champion of children rights – Community Development Department – has locked more than 400 students out of their school in Port Moresby.

The department has blamed a Catholic Church order for putting chains and lock to the Save Our Children School, Socay, at Hohola, under police protection.

Twelve volunteer teachers of the school run by the Catholic Sacred Heart Brothers are also affected.

Police said yesterday they were acting on an eviction notice and locked out students and teachers and the principal charged with obstruction.

Students, including four people living with disabilities, who turned up at school yesterday, were told their school was locked so they sat outside for half the day waiting for answers.

Student Goma Kelly asked why the department which created and advocates their rights through the Lukautim Pikinini Act has turned a blind eye and stony face on their struggle to education which the Government professes to be free under its tuition fee free policy.

Head boy Harry Jack said it was an unfortunate situation that has to be fixed by all parties involved.

Kelly Goma said all parties must consider children’s right to education which he said is not a privilege but a right.

“We are street boys, left out of the system. How many times is the system going to punish us, push us out into the streets?”

Principal Ludwina Bogea said a memorandum of understanding was signed with the department in 2008 to run the school and rehabilitate program students who had have been left out of the formal school system.

“We have been trying to talk to the department to revisit the MOU but to no avail. All had turned out to an eviction notice yesterday leaving students disturbed and asking what was happening,” Ms Bogea said.

She said eviction notices were served previously but they had not moved until yesterday when ordered by the police. Assistant commissioner of police Sylvester Kalaut, who authorised the eviction, said there was no tenancy agreement between the Sacred Heart Brothers and the landlord – Community Development and Religion Department – and his men were called to serve the eviction notice and asked the students and teachers to leave.

Community Development Deputy Secretary Leo Kulumbu said there was no agreement in place for a school which was operating illegally. He said the institute owes the department more than K100,000[US$31,000] in rent, could not pay and must leave.

He said although the department served the interest of children and youth it was unfortunate that the Catholic Church and the Sacred Heart Brothers had not followed due processes. The brothers are the ‘culprits’ and they are answerable for this mess,” Mr Kulumbu said.

The Brothers had travelled to Wewak and could not be contacted for comment.

The school has been operating Socay since 2008, educating students who dropped out of the national education system. Twelve teachers have volunteered under an arrangement with the Sacred Heart Brothers to teach literacy, early childhood, flexible open distance education and certificate courses in electrical, welding and business studies as a second shot at education at the training centre.

PNG Post-Courier
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