Papua New Guinea

published in Education on April 4, 2018

All grown up and going to school

Foniu comes to Lucy Embi’s Adult Literacy Class with her mother-in-law.

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“I could not even sign my name”

Some adults in the settlement where they live in PNG are ashamed they cannot read and write, and so don’t want anyone to see them coming to class. Foniu has no such shyness…

“I am happy to come to school so I can learn how to read and write.

I never went to school in my life. The reason I could not go to school is because when I was a girl we had no church building.

My mother told me we must go to the market and sell vegetables so we can build a church. I was 10.

I was happy to do this to help my mummy.”

A child can perhaps manage to enjoy everyday life, even without being able to read and write. But being illiterate as an adult can lock people out of well-paid jobs, and thus trap their family in poverty.

“When I grew up I realised I could not read and write, and it was a burden to me. I would cry, and pray to God.

There is a fish factory along the road, and they were recruiting people. But to get a job you had to be able to sign your name. I could not. So I could not have a job to earn money to care for my family.”

That’s why the support of the ALWS family, working alongside the Australian Government and Lutheran churches in PNG, is so important.

For Foniu, this support came through volunteer Lucy Embi and her Adult Literacy School.

“I was at the road selling vegetables, and Lucy came and told me about the school, and the need to establish it.

Then, Lucy and I and her husband went around house to house to collect details of people who needed education, and we found so many people who could not read or write.

My husband is happy I come to this school. He can read and write already, but sometimes he comes with me just to observe.

My children are in the formal school, and this makes me very happy. I tell them ‘Do not be like me – you must have education.’

I prayed to God that He can help me read and write. God opened my eyes and the first verse I read from the Bible was John 14:6

“I am the way, the truth, and the life!” Jesus answered.
“Without me, no one can go to the Father.”

I have always prayed for this kind of school to open, to help me read every word of the Bible. Before, I could not read the Bible. Now I can.”

Foniu’s story is proof of the impact you can make when your kindness through ALWS is matched with the hard work of volunteers like Lucy.

We celebrate with Foniu when she proclaims “Now I can!”