Thursday, November 15, 2007

Youngsters become young stars at Kokopo Secondary School

Kokopo Secondary School in East New Britain province is undergoing a quite revolution as its students become real-life entrepreneurs.
To see the determination of these youngsters to be young stars, especially at a time when so many of their peers all over the country are sinking into a quagmire of poverty and unemployment, gives you so much optimism for the future.

Kokopo Secondary School is indeed a parable for the youth of Papua New Guinea.

These young men and women – Grade 9, 10, 11 and 12 students - are into various businesses such as vegetable growing, tailoring, trade stores, poultry, cooking food, laplaps, meri blouses, coconut oil, baking, and many more.

They are trained by their teachers in all facets of small business such as producing, buying, marketing, selling, bookkeeping and banking.

They are independent and no longer rely on their parents for school fees and pocket money.

Young female Grade 10 student Catherine Kereku – in something out of the ordinary - designs, builds and then sells coffins in her own workshop.

Justin Malana, another female Grade 10 student, is the sole breadwinner for her siblings after their father deserted them and the subsequent death of their mother.

Male Grade 10 student Angelo Buak – who is into selling iceblocks, baking and sewing – recently used some of this money to buy his own personal computer.

Female Grade 10 student Coran Dan, whose vegetable garden is a walk-in market for customers, has made over K3000 this year.

These are just a few of the many success stories from Kokopo Secondary School.

The enthusiasm of these young people for business and life in general greatly touched and moved a group of visitors to the school last week.

The Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) programme is offered as an integral part of the school curriculum at Kokopo Secondary School to create awareness of and promote entrepreneurship to students, their parents and the community at large.

The SIYB programme, run by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) through the Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC), was first introduced to Kokopo Secondary School in 2003 by SBDC-accredited master trainer Henry Tavul.

“He (Tavul) successfully trialed and pioneered the program with a class of about 100 business studies students who graduated with a certificate,” said Kokopo principal Patrick Jerome.

“The success immediately had a positive impact in the school, which resulted in having SBDC training 24 teachers to be trainers in 2004.

“Since then the program has taken root in the school and has grown bigger and better.

“It is our strong desire to pro-actively participate in the government’s nationwide programs in the drive to alleviate poverty in PNG by teaching young people to learn and adopt business culture at a young age.”

Tavul recalls that the SIYB programme was treated with suspicion by both students and parents when he introduced it at the school in 2003.

“They (students and parents) were not very enthusiastic,” he remembers.

“They were looking forward to white collar jobs.

“Now, they can see that they have something to fall back on if they don’t get a white collar job.”

The history of the SIYB programme at Kokopo Secondary School goes back to 2003 when it became a secondary school.

Its Business Studies Department took a huge step to add more value to the courses offered by inserting SIYB into the curriculum.

“So far, we have trained more than 400 students,” said school’s SIYB coordinator Alfred Bare.

“The majority of them are SYB certificate holders and the rest of them are IYB certificate holders

“The criteria used to assess were purely based on the training outcomes: precise and realistic business plans and tests at the end of the program.

“Some went for further studies and some went hack to their villages and lived meaningful lives, starting up their own micro businesses.

“This is what it means to be self-reliant and participating meaningfully in our economy.”

The school’s head of business studies Adrian Balagawi believes the SIYB programme is the way of the future “to be taught to the students in all high and secondary schools.

“I believe if this course is accepted and implemented by the authorities as a productive module, it will enable our students to generate revenue by establishing micro-businesses at an early age.”

So what better judges than the student of Kokopo Secondary School themselves?

“…this project has contributed to my wellbeing and has prompted the desire to become a businessman,” said coconut oil producer William Toliman.

“It has built up a type of confidence on how to deal with money in real life situation.

“In this real commercial and business world, the application of knowledge is what matters.”

Iceblock, baking, and sewing tyro Angelo Buak comments: “I think this is one of things that can help to reduce crimes involving young people.

“Encouraging young people to start up similar small business like this one will enable them to concentrate on his/her own business, not the peers, so that they can feel the thrill of holding hot money in their hands and forget about breaking and entering stores, pick-pocketing and also to prevent them from becoming beggars.”

Vola Vinarang, a Grade 11 male student, is into making meri blouses women.

“I found out that this course is very vital for us young Papua New Guineans,” he says.

“We need to start saving now.

“This course, I believe, will make us students come out of our shells and explore how the world of money or business is.”

Another Grade 11 student, Muro Igo, believes the SIYB programme can help students become better citizens.

“I think this is a way in which students can excel and become good citizens of this great nation,” he said.

Tavul has the last word: “If you don’t have a job, create your own job!”

For more information on the SIYB Programme, contact Manager Peter Piawu on telephone 3235816 or email or ILO Chief Technical Adviser Julius Mutio on telephone 3235816 email

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