In the remote Trobriand group of islands in Milne Bay Province, is a teacher who is having a significant impact on his community through his passion for agriculture. Nathan Kabisawali, a teacher at Kiriwina High School, is devoted to teaching his students about sustainable farming practices and food security.
Nathan’s upbringing in the Trobriand islands and his firsthand experience of the challenges his community faced due to climate change, inspired him to study agriculture at the University of Environment and Natural Resources. “I want to assist the people on the island in increasing their fresh produce while using sustainable methods to protect the environment,” he says.
In 2017, Nathan was diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis, which affected his right leg. Since then, he has switched from being an agriculturist to being a teacher, determined to continue his personal mission of providing extension services and information to island communities.
He applied for a scholarship to study a Post Graduate Diploma in Education at the University of Goroka (UoG) through the Australia Awards Scholarship. “The scholarship came at a time when I was lost, especially when I found that I needed an assistive device (crutch). I was depressed, and the scholarship gave me a second chance to be able to contribute to the country even in my state. For that, I am grateful,” he says.
As the only agriculture teacher on the island, Nathan uses a combination of theory and practical lessons to teach his students. He has set up a school gardening plot where the students can apply their knowledge in real-life situations. “It’s rewarding to see students and other teachers look up to me for advice about crop planting, gardening or advice on food storage. It’s nice to be needed,” he shares.
Nathan’s passion for agriculture extends beyond the classroom, and he is proud to see his teachings being applied in the community. “I am especially proud when I see gardens in front yards because it shows people are taking up this information and applying it,” he shares.
While Nathan acknowledges the challenges of teaching in an under-resourced and underfunded environment, he is hopeful for the future of education in Papua New Guinea.
“I want to see more students securing places in higher education, technical and vocational schools, and to see agriculture as a priority lesson extended to all schools. Agriculture not only is the backbone of this country, but it should be taught as a life skill,” he explains.
Nathan’s dedication to his community and passion for agriculture make him an admirable role model for his students and fellow teachers. His advice to those considering an Australia Awards scholarship application is to prepare well and not to have limiting beliefs, especially for those with disabilities. “The scholarship encourages people with disabilities, so it’s a good opportunity to apply,” he encouraged.