The Re-Opening of My Primary School

Written by Shila Yukuli Paia on Friday, 01 April 2016. Posted in Papua New Guinea

a community working together to provide basic education for their children.

The Re-Opening of My Primary School

When I divorced in 2008 my people disowned me. I made it my business to raise awareness on gender based violence, human rights, education, health and poverty, both in my village and within settlements of Port Moresby. This talk was my last in my village before I came to Australia in January 2011. My people have learnt so much and are mobilised to make a positive change. This has been one of the milestone achievements of my career.


Numerous consultations, mobilising women, raising awareness and capacity building have been carried out since 2008 to increase women’s understanding of benefits and risks associated with the PNGLNG (Papua New Guinea Liquid Natural Gas) project in order to establish the best possible strategies on how women could participate in the development. This is a picture of women leaders listening to me in October 2010 when Women in Development Foundation PNG (WIDFPNG) was endorsed by the chiefs of the PNGLNG project impact area as a voice to advocate for women. The photo was taken at my house in Erima Settlement Port Moresby.


WIDFPNG executives at my house, Erima Settlement in November 2010. All these women are from the PNGLNG affected villages in Hela Province and except for myself and my son, none have had the opportunity for even a primary school education.


This is the Kutubu Women’s Association in the Southern Highlands Province of PNG, which is another PNLNG project impact area. The women are dressed in their Tapa Cloth in celebration of their achievement of a women’s rice project in the area. Photo taken in 2009 by CDI staff.



Happy children singing at the opening of a Pre-School built by their community in my village Pakura in 2010. These children do not have a school to go to.


The Pakura community was mobilised, land allocated and infrastructure underway for the re-opening of the Primary school which had been closed for 30 years.


The entire Pakura community stand in solidarity and contribute their labour towards building of the school infrastructure project.


Land is an important resource in my culture. Here the boundary has been built to secure land allocated for the school.


One of two classrooms built by the community with local materials.


Children from my village are now enrolled in Primary School for the first time in 30 years. The enrolment age ranges from 7-25 years due to literacy popular demand.


This is what it looks like inside the classroom. Bamboo walls, timber desks or most times children sit on the ground. The torn papers on the wall used here for learning would have been donated from the Tari provincial education office miles away from the village. There is no light, telecommunication, computers or even books here. Teachers basically have no teaching resources let alone children’s learning materials and stationery.


About the Author

Shila Yukuli Paia

Shila Yukuli Paia

Shila grew up in the remote Hela Province of Papua New Guinea. The first Primary School in her region was built when she was six years old, but Shila was considered too stunted to be admitted. She attended anyway and was soon outperforming the other students. The community wouldn't allow her to attend High School, so Shila ran away, managing to fund her own education. Based on her grades she was selected to study nursing and later managed community development projects for World Vision and public health programs for CDI. In 2002 Shila was awarded an AusAid scholarship and completed a Bachelor of Health Science through Victoria University and again in 2012 completed a Master of International Development from Flinders University. Shila is currently enrolled in the Doctor of Public Health program at Flinders University. Her research explores the impact of cultural practices on child nutrition and will shape her "Soil Child" project implemented through Fulcrum Aid.

Shila is Project Manager for the Soil Child project in Papua New Guinea.

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.