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Meet Puri Saka, a teacher at Magarima Secondary School in Hela Province, is better known to his students as Mr Saka.

Mr Saka is a determined young man from Dei district in Western Highlands Province. He believes education is a tool that enables a person to have a better future. This belief and his life experiences brought him to where he is now, a Year 9 English and Year 11 History teacher in Magarima.

Though he loves his profession, it wasn’t a smooth ride for Mr Saka growing up. He lost his father when he was in grade 4. At that age, he did not really understand what losing his father would mean for him, his mother and his three siblings in the long run. As time passed, he began to realise how challenging life was for them. Mr Saka and his older sister did not have a childhood like many other children. They did not enjoy the fun of playing with friends or taking part in sporting events, as they had to help their mother work in the garden during their free time, to ensure they had food and an income.

The challenges however encouraged him to want to succeed in life. His mother, with the help of relatives, provided for her children as a small-scale farmer and made sure their educational needs were met. He knew he had to do his part, to make sure he completed his education and make his mother and siblings proud.

With his commitment to his studies, his desire to be a teacher, and the endless support from his family, he journeyed on to the University of Goroka (UOG) to complete a Bachelor of Education degree in 2017. It did not get easier though, as university fees and the cost of living created new barriers.

In 2019, Mr Saka saw an advert at the University about the Oil Search Foundation (OSF) scholarships. OSF scholarships are provided to academically strong students willing to teach in remote parts of PNG, especially in Hela, Southern Highlands and Gulf provinces. This aligned with Mr Saka’s passion to help educate young people who may not have easy access to quality education. He also knew he had to apply for this scholarship, to help his widowed mother.

After completing his final year at UOG in 2020, young Mr Saka started his new career.

“I applied to teach at Magarima Secondary School, after reading an advert that was put up at UOG during my final year of study. I wanted to help the young people in Magarima, and also honour my commitment to the scholarship I received.”
- Puri Saka Magarima Secondary School Teacher

After liaising with the school, Mr Saka  journeyed on to Magarima at the start of year 2021. He took a bag of his personal belongings, got a PMV in Mt Hagen without a map, but equipped with directions provided by the school principal.

“We arrived at Magarima as it was getting dark, and it was really cold. You need to wear 3 – 4 layers of clothing to be warm.

“I asked people at the market for more directions to get to the school, and they were kind enough to help. As I shivered into the school, I met the school’s Deputy Principal Academic. She looked at me with uncertainty. She was probably not convinced that I was a trained teacher. I don’t blame her, as I was this slim young man, who did not look old enough,” Mr Saka said.

“She then reached out to the principal and arranged for a temporary accommodation for me, at the house of a teacher who was away for holidays. Another new teacher and I were later moved to a rental accommodation, about 15-20minutes away from the school. We stayed there for the whole academic year.” Mr Saka said.

Despite all the challenges, Mr Saka felt blessed that he was given such an opportunity to complete his education, and to be of service to the young people in Magarima.

“I want to say thank you to the Lord with all my heart for helping me through all that has happened in my life. I am so thankful, and I have no regrets. The year 2021 was a challenging academic year but my grade 9 and 11 students managed to complete all their English and History lessons.”

“I will also forever be thankful for my dear hard-working mother, who raised me to be a blessing to other young people. She is my number one hero. She laughed with me, cried with me and supported me all the way until I received my bachelor’s degree”, says Mr Saka proudly.

“And I want to thank everyone who provided me the opportunity, to complete my education and that includes OSF.”

“I strongly encourage those without a parent or parents, or those facing challenges in life, to always have a positive mindset, count your blessings and not dwell on the negatives. I believe everyone has an angel assigned to him or her by our Lord to see them through difficult times.”