Scholarships support tertiary education for young women in Papua New Guinea
February 05, 2024 by Save the Children Papua New Guinea |
3 minutes read

Read how Papua New Guinea is improving teachers’ skills and increasing the number of female teachers with support from GPE and Save the Children.

Nineteen-year-old Velian grew up in a remote village in New Ireland province in Papua New Guinea, where graduating from tertiary education seemed an unattainable dream.

When we meet Velian today, she is taking a break from studying for her third-year exams at the Pacific Adventist University in Port Moresby. She hopes to graduate soon as a fully qualified teacher of science and math.

Velian has had to overcome many challenges, including a lack of teachers and learning materials when she was growing up, and a two-hour walk to secondary school. A scholarship – one of 40 scholarships made possible through a GPE funded project – has been critical in helping her pursue her dream.

“My parents are subsistence farmers, and the money they earn from selling crops helps pay for my school fees. Being under the scholarship is a privilege; it has lifted the burden of worry, allowing me to focus more on my studies."
19-year-old student and scholarship recipient, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

Life at university in the city is very different to her village upbringing, but she is relishing the resources and support she’s receiving and building her skills and self-esteem.

When she’s not concentrating on her studies, she takes part in the school choir and drama team.

“I have to be creative and confident to guide my students. This course has made me more talkative than before. I’m looking forward to teaching and serving, whether in a remote or urban area.”
19-year-old student and scholarship recipient
Velian studying at the university library. Credit: Rachel Tarsan / Save the Children
Velian studying at the university library.
Rachel Tarsan / Save the Children

The BEST project

The Boosting Education Standards Together (BEST) project’s Papua New Guinea Female Teachers Education Scholarship Scheme is funded by GPE and implemented by the National Department of Education, with Save the Children as the grant agent.

The program has also mobilized additional scholarships from the private sector including Newmont Mining and BNP Bank.

The scholarships students like Velian have received cover a four-year Bachelor of Education degree for math or science. They include costs of tuition, board, travel, practicum and study resources.

Having more female math and science teachers has been shown to help girls improve learning outcomes, without negatively affecting boys.

Increasing the number of female teachers also aims to help girls and young women stay in school by providing strong role models. In 2016, the transition rate of girls in Papua New Guinean secondary schools stood at 57% from grade 8 to grade 9 and 44% from grade 10 to grade 11.

The presence of more female educators will also play a pivotal role in inspiring other young female students to pursue careers and advanced studies in these important fields, where women are currently under-represented.

Velian’s journey from her remote village in New Ireland to university in Port Moresby is already inspiring young girls in her village. She says she has spoken with many of them in her church youth group, village and district, encouraging them to continue their education, and explaining how the scholarship and support received from the project is helping her.

“When I go home, the young girls and my friends ask about university and what it’s like out there.”
19-year-old student and scholarship recipient, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

The BEST project also improves student learning in math and science through strengthened teacher training and improved access to textbooks across Papua New Guinea.

GPE funded the development of teacher training materials in math and science; the in-service training of over 1,000 math teachers and 900 science teachers; and the distribution of 900,000 copies each of math and science textbooks and 40,000 copies each of math and science teachers’ manuals for grades 3–6.

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