Gethrude Amunti survived the tsunami that swept away the whole Sissano village in West Sepik Province 25 years ago. She obtained a Diploma in Primary Teaching through an Australia Awards Scholarship and is now teaching at Olbrum Primary School. The school currently sits on land that was a place of refuge for Gethrude and her family when fleeing from the tsunami that claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Gethrude wanted to become a teacher because of her admiration for the profession. “When I was younger, I would go to the classroom to see my mum teach. I told myself that I want to become a role model and a teacher to my students in the future.”

Selected to study at Sonoma Teachers College from grade 12, Gethrude withdrew from studies because she couldn’t pay the school fees. Gethrude only had her mother for support.

A year later, Gethrude applied again to study at Sacred Heart Teachers College and secured an Australia Awards PNG Scholarship during her first year.

“The scholarship is really a blessing and a great help to me and my mother. I was privileged to be part of the Australia Awards Scholarship. The scholarship supported me with school fees, an allowance, and aeroplane tickets. I am really thankful for this scholarship. Without it, I don’t think I would have completed my studies.”

Gethrude graduated last year with a Diploma in Primary Teaching. She says that her mum is planning to resign from teaching this year and she is ready to take over.

Due to the remote location, Gethrude’s greatest challenges are a lack of learning resources and exposure to English. “When I speak English, students in the classroom just sit down and stare at me, not knowing what I’m saying. When I speak English to them, they expect me to translate to them in tok pisin. And if they don’t understand, I must translate to them in local language. Some are not able to read or comprehend simple sentences.

Gethrude developed resources, books and stories, for reading sessions. In doing so, she has seen changes unfolding. Her students are now more enthusiastic and trying their best to speak English. She has involved the students in creating rules for themselves to follow and displaying them on the classroom walls. One of these rules is to always speak English in the classroom. She is planning to set up a mini library for the students so they can learn to read, comprehend and speak better English.

“Australia Awards Scholarship is the best,” says Gethrude. “I encourage those who want to take up teaching to apply.”