by LEONARD FONG ROKA
AS SHOCK and fear at the slaying of the Divine Word University’s Sepik student Nigel Laki and injuries sustained by Ishmael Palipal and others holds every nerve on campus, Bougainville students cry out that their government in Kubu has failed them for so long by not building a university on Bougainville where students would have freedom and peace on their home island.
The number of Bougainvillean students entering Divine Word University is increasing annually. Many of 2014’s first year students are here since DWU is making itself known as a hub of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in PNG.
Continuing students promote this when touring secondary schools every November as part of the Bougainville Youth Foundation awareness program.
For many first timers out of Bougainville, the ‘Beautiful Madang’ tag is in their mind. But just as their flight touches down at Madang airport, the city’s unkempt character, the standard of peoples’ dress and housing and the intimidating stares tell them they have believed a lie.
Since we arrived at DWU this year, over 11 students across Madang’s tertiary institutions have been robbed by thugs in town. Two first year male students who had been shopping were repeatedly harassed and threatened with small kitchen knives during a bus ride from town to the main campus until one of them punched the thief in the neck choking him before darting into the DWU main gate.
Another student from Madang Teachers College was withdrawing cash from an ATM in town when a rascal held him up and walked away with his K2,000 school fee cash.
In another incident, seen by Bougainville students away from the safety and peace of their island, a trio of Madang Technical College students were pickpocketed in town and attacked the child rascals. However a bigger criminal mob was soon on them and they had to run for safety.
“This is really a strange place,” one of the pair harassed during the bus ride to DWU, said. “Thank God the crisis chased these rascals off our island. I have gleaned that they are there wandering around town looking for opportunities to rob us.”
In a gathering outside AJ Hall, Bougainvillean students waiting for Nigel Laki’s funeral service to start shared news on all the things they are seeing and experiencing that were real contradiction to their island home, Bougainville.
To them, the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) must use all the funding the PNG government is providing to build a university in Bougainville so they can complete their education back home.
A female student said: “I am fed up with our MPs in Port Moresby and Buka for not building a university back home and ignorantly letting us attend this crime-infested place. I had a bad night with all the police gunfire last night and this morning. I hate to be here.”
Another said: “All of us boys must try to avoid these life-threatening developments. We have suffered enough and we are here to get an education and return home to remove all those old leaders who are not functioning well.”
Students also ran through a list of fellow students slain or disadvantaged through past and recent history everywhere in PNG and told the final year students they have to go home and get positions that have a say in policy making after completing their studies at DWU.
Bougainvillean students believe the ABG must speed up the development of technical and teachers colleges and universities in Bougainville since they are fed up coming to PNG to be harmed.
They are happy that colleges in Tinputz, Koromira and Mabiri provide trade skill to Bougainvillean youths.
They are also excited by the development of a technical school and a teachers college in Buin. But all are concerned that non-Bougainvilleans not be allowed into Bougainville to create the slums and deprive Bougainvilleans of their own land as was the case before 1989.
They laughed when one student rose and said: “Boys, if you want a wife now that you are a university student, find your wife in this family and girls, do the same too; a thing from Bougainville must return back to Bougainville.”