Nestled in the heart of East Sepik Province, Ambunti-Drekikir District is a place of incredible beauty and immense challenges. For Hillary Suamba, growing up in this community was a lesson in the power of perseverance and the importance of education.

After completing his own education at Ambunti High School, Hillary set his sights on a career in teaching. Armed with a diploma in secondary education from the University of Goroka, he took his first steps into the world of education at St Ignatius Secondary School in 1995. It wasn’t long before Hillary took on various leadership positions, including Deputy Principal, and Principal of St. Ignatius Secondary School in 2007.

However, with years of experience in teaching, he witnessed many schools run down due to inexperienced and unprepared leadership. This led him to pursue a master’s degree in educational leadership and management from the University of Wollongong through the Australia Awards Scholarships.

“It was a passion that started early in the 90s for me,” Hilary says. “There is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately, a mentoring program for teachers.”

Mentoring programs increase job satisfaction, help teachers to emerge as leaders within their schools and have a positive effect on student achievement and engagement. Hillary’s major course research focused on improving management and leadership skill of head teachers and principals and deputies in schools across the country.

“People who are appointed are not experienced and have not been in the job. So, my aim was how I could try to help improve that,” Hillary remarked.

“I think one of the most important things I learned during my time in Australia was about time,” Hillary said. “Especially if you’re travelling by train and the time is stated, you have to be there on time. If you are probably one or two minutes behind, you will be late, and you won’t catch the train. This is one important factor that I would like to drive home to teachers, that having time management skills is an important skill to master,” Hiillary said.

After completing his master’s degree in 2019, Hillary rose to the ranks of Superintendent and eventually became the Acting Director for Education in West Sepik Province.

Hillary Suamba’s research in mentoring for educators has resulted in a significant contribution to the #PNGAus Partnerships for Improving Education (PIE) program. The program, which was launched in February at Dapu Primary School in Vanimo , West Sepik, aims to address the limitations and challenges faced in early grade education and ensure more children, including girls and children with disabilities, attend school.

Hillary’s contribution to the PIE program provides a pathway towards ensuring that children have access to quality education and are empowered to reach their full potential.

“A particular meaningful experience I had so far is how much difference you can make with the input you make,” Suamba said. “I have realized by establishing the basic principles of leading and managing people, you can make a big difference in the performance of teachers and schools.”