By MALUM NALU
What do Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Chief Secretary Manasupe Zurenuoc, National Court judge Panuel Mogish, Airbus A380 pilot Captain Locklyn Sabumei and many other leading personalities of Papua New Guinea have in common?
They are all proud former students of Goroka Secondary School, one of the leading secondary educational institutions in the country, who will be putting their money where their heart is on Saturday.
There are many more including leading woman engineer Finkewe Zurenuoc, Goroka MP Thompson Haroqkave, Ungai-Bena MP Benny Allan, Chuave MP Jim Nomane, former MP John Nilkare, former Police Commissioner Henry Tokam, former Chief Magistrate John Numapo, former Kundiawa-Gembogl MP the late Joe Mek Teine and many, many more, from all over PNG.
They will be holding a fundraising dinner at Dynasty Seafood Restaurant, Vision City, on Saturday, October 22, to help the school raise funds to rebuild its science laboratory, which was razed by fire in June this year.
The dinner coincides with another pride of Goroka, the Bintangor Goroka Lahanis, playing in Sunday’s Digicel Cup grand final, meaning the place will be chock-a-block with Goroka supporters.
The school, formerly known as Goroka High School, has produced some of the finest in this country.
They have all been asked to help the school at this time of need.
A fundraising committee known as Asu Amiti Fundraising Committee has been set up in Goroka and Port Moresby since the burning down of the laboratory, and has already conducted several fundraising activities, which will culminate with Saturday's dinner.
Sabumei, who completed Grade 10 at the school in 1982 before going on to Sogeri National High School and then University of PNG, before switching to flying, recalls that those were among the best days of his life, which made him what he is today.
He admits that his interest in aviation started when he watched the first Air Niugini F28 to Goroka in 1979.
“ I enjoyed my days at Goroka High School, and it's a pity I don't have any photos from back then,” he told me from United Arab Emirates while taking a breaking from flying the mammoth super jumbo jet.
“(Prime Minister) Peter O'Neill and I were in the same class.
“He went directly to UPNG whilst I went to Sogeri National High School, and later met up with him at UPNG.
“I remember hanging out with my boarding friends after school and waiting for dinner time, because I loved the ‘flour’ that the cooks at the mess would make.
“Not the most-healthy meal by any standard, but it tasted good nevertheless!
“The teachers at the school were great.
“I especially remember my maths teacher in Grade 10, Sister Linda.
“She was a Catholic nun from Germany that taught at the school.
“Her teaching style was fun and encouraging, and she made learning maths very enjoyable.
“I also remember enjoying agriculture class to the extent that I ordered day-old chicks, guinea fowls and guinea pigs from Lae, to look after in my back yard.
“For a while there, I thought my calling was Agriculture.
“The school also had a cockatoo that we used to take great pleasure in teaching many not-so- polite words, and for which we repeatedly got told off by the principal, Mr Egan, at morning assembly.
“My interest in aviation started whilst I was at Goroka High School.
“I remember the school giving us half a day off to go see the F28's first flight to Goroka, around 1979 I think.
“That just spurred things along.
“My friends and I would walk to the airport, and stand by the fence closest to the departure end of the runway, and stare at planes for hours on end.
“All the while thinking to myself....one day I'll fly those.
“Years later, when I was in Air Niugini and flying to Goroka, I saw other kids doing the same thing along the fence and thought, ‘wow...dreams do become reality’.
“Twenty-five years in commercial aviation later, I’m still living the dream.”
Fundraising committee member and businessman Jeno Aeno, owner of Oxford Medical Supplies and a former classmate of O’Neill and Sabumei, urged all former students to attend the dinner.
Tickets are on sale in three categories – gold for K10, 000, silver for K5, 000 and bronze for K3, 000 – while individual tickets can be purchased for K150.
“I’m an ex-Goroka High School student and also a landowner from Kama village,” Aeno said.
“I feel obliged that I should support the fundraising drive.
“The school has produced some of the most highly-respected people in the country.
“It is one of the biggest secondary schools in the country, just like Kokopo Secondary School in East New Britain and Bugandi Secondary School in Lae.
“The school continues to produce brilliant students for the universities in the country and overseas.
“We’re having ex-students from places like Alotau, Kokopo, Tabubil, Lae and Madang calling us to purchase tickets,” he said.
“These people are going to spend their own money to fly in just for the dinner.
“It’s also becoming like a big reunion for the school.”
Aeno said apart from students, many former staff would also be attending Saturday's dinner, such as former longtime principal Bernadette Ove, Karoko Asimi and others.
“They are very fond of the time the spent in Goroka,” he said.
Aeno said they were already assured of support from National Gaming Control Board, Post PNG, JDA Wokman, Eyechen and National Maritime Safety Authority.
He is already putting his money where his mouth is, with Oxford paying for four tables at a cost of K19, 000.
Former students and supporters of the school who wish to attend the dinner can call Oxford Medical Supplies on telephone 325 4874.