By Laurens Ikinia
As late South African President Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Papuan Governor Lukas Enembe also believes this.
Enembe made a remarkable decision to provide scholarships to Papuan students to obtain education overseas such as in New Zealand, Australia, the UK, the US and other countries across the world.
He has realised that having West Papuan students in many world ranking universities will help raise the profile and dignity of Papuans on the global stage.
This year, six Papuan provincial government scholarship recipients have graduated from several universities in New Zealand. About 160 Papuans are currently studying in New Zealand.
Marius Elabi graduated with Master of International Relationship and Security Studies from Waikato University on December 8, and Anggie Freesia Maritje Kapisa with a Bachelor of Science major in microbiology and Stephanie Verneytha Dike with a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition from Otago University on December 16.
Fredy Nawalyn with a Bachelor of International Business Management, Erli Enambere with a Bachelor of Contemporary International Studies and Prisilia Samori with a NZ Diploma in Tourism and Travel also graduated from the Institute of the Pacific United New Zealand on December 18.
Kapisa, who is the first child of her family to achieve education overseas said she was so humble and grateful to set an example for her younger sisters.
Even though Otago University did not hold its usual full graduation ceremony, a graduation ceremony was staged for Pacific students at the university campus.
Grateful for study opportunity
Kapisa said that she was so grateful to have a Pacific community at Otago University, so her West Papuan friends who were studying in New Zealand could come and celebrate the graduation together.
“I am so grateful to have my Pacific community here and West Papuan friends because my family could not attend my graduation,” said Kapisa.
Kapisa always stayed close to her family said that during her study she had encountered a lot of challenges knowing that came from a non-English speaking country and a different education system.
But with her commitment and perseverance and with the support from the people around her, she completed her study.
“Off course, I was homesick, but I must keep my health. It is not only my physical health but also my mental health,” she said.
“As you don’t know what I am going through, so it is important for me to have someone to talk to.
“I know that if I could make it, other girls can also make it,” said Kapisa.
Governor Enembe’s scholarships
Stephanie Verneytha Dike, who also graduated from Otago University, said she was extremely grateful to all the lecturers and academic supports staff who had helped her during her study.
She said she was so grateful to the government of Papua province and particularly Governor Enembe for granting her the scholarship to study in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Being an international student and studying overseas in a new environment and social life was always challenging, Dike said.
Dike who is also the first born in her family said that she faced a number of challenges that she managed to overcome.
She said the language barrier was the first challenge she faced along with social life.
Another challenge was the study because students were very competitive in class, so she had to study really hard.
“The challenges came from various factors, from education, the life like socialisation, and living far away from family – but the biggest challenge was competition in class,” she said.
‘Motivation to study hard’
“We have to pass the paper because we have the scholarship from the government, and we don’t want to waste the chance that the [Papua provincial] government has provided for us.
“Even though it is a pressure, we need to take it as our motivation to study hard,” said Dike.
Marius Elabi, who graduated from Waikato University, said that getting an opportunity to obtain knowledge from one of the universities in New Zealand was a fulfillment of his dream.
He said students needed to be grateful for the current provincial government’s programme to send students to pursue education in developed countries like New Zealand.
Elabi left his wife and children in West Papua and said it is really hard to be a student when you have got a family. But he was grateful to have a supportive family.
“I am so fortunate to have such a great wife and beautiful children who always get my back.
“My wife is a civil servant, but she is a great woman like other Melanesian and Pacific women,” he said.
“We West Papuans are capable to compete with other students here in New Zealand and in other countries, but we don’t have much opportunity,” said Elabi.
Father of three
Elabi, who is the father of three children, said that studying in New Zealand was not like in Indonesia where he had completed his undergraduate studies.
He said the challenges were similar to what Kapisa and Dike experienced, but one other issue that challenged him throughout his study was “family burdens”.
In order to be able to provide needs for his family back in West Papua, he did part time work as a cleaner and fruit picker.
“Even though I have to study and complete my thesis, I spent a couple of hours to do cleaning,” he said.
“During school break, I work with other West Papuan students at the farm.
“When you are students, never be shy to do any kind of work,” said Elabi.
Kapisa, Dike and Elabi said that they hoped the government of Papua province would send more Papuan students to New Zealand so that they could have a chance to know their brothers and sisters in the Pacific from New Zealand.
Presented achievements to family
The graduates said they presented their achievements to their mother, father, brothers, sisters, wife, children, extended family and all West Papuans.
Marveys Ayomi, a scholarship coordinator for Papuan students in New Zealand, said he was extremely proud of all the West Papuan graduates from Waikato, Otago and IPU New Zealand.
“First of all it is a big achievement for the people of Papua and we also need to acknowledge such an important role of the government of Papua plays from the very beginning since the establishment of the programme, specially a big thanks to our Governor bapak Lukas Enembe for providing this opportunity to many of our Papuan students.
“This is once in a lifetime opportunity for many of them and some of them in fact never travel out of Papua. Most of the students are highly motivated and driven to succeed.
“Now over the last three or four years we are averaging over five sometimes 10 students graduating over the last few years,” said Ayomi.
“This is the example of how successful the programme has been.”
Ayomi, a Papuan who has been living in New Zealand for 20 years and is a lecturer at the IPU New Zealand, said that there were many challenges that every student faced.
Adapting to new culture
Every student faced challenges like adapting to the new culture, academic system and other things.
Coming from Papua and culturally as a Melanesian and with a Pacific background, he said that New Zealand was a very unique and beautiful country for Papuans to be. He said in terms of the culture, there was a lot of similarity between Papuan culture and Māori culture.
“It is a different country, but I think culturally speaking we share a lot of commonalities and also similar cultural practices and traditions,” he said.
“The people of Papua have got a lot of hope for a bigger, better, brighter Papua in coming years. I call this day, the Golden Generation of Papua.”
He hopes everyone will succeed in their studies and enjoy their experience as much as possibly they can, take a lot of positive things that they can learn from New Zealand – “the beautiful nation and its people”.
Transfer some of those skills to your own people when you return home at some point,” said Ayomi.
“But if you still continue your studies, continue to do well and always put people in your land first before anything else.”
Laurens Ikinia is a Papuan Masters in Communication Studies student at Auckland University of Technology who has been studying journalism. He is on an internship with AUT’s Pacific Media Centre.
This post was originally published on Radio Free.