A new school Augustinian high school opened in the Asia-Pacific on 16th July 2010 in the Indonesian Province of Papua Barat. It joins a band of other Asian-Pacific Augustinian schools in Australia (2), Japan (1), India (1) and the Philippines (6).
The new school is located at Susweni, a district in the developing outskirts of Manokwari, the capital of Papua Barat Province, Indonesia. The city of Manokwari has a population of 65,000, which is approximately the same as that of Bendigo, Launceston or Rockhampton (Australia) and half that of Maastricht (Holland). In 2005 the governmental Province of Papua, centred on the city of Jayapura, had the new Province of Papua Barat excised from it, centred on the city of Manokwari. Hence today there is the (reduced) Province of Papua, with its capital at Jayapura, and the Province of Papua Barat, with its capital at Manokwari.
The new school is named Villanova Senior High School in honour of St Thomas of Villanova O.S.A. (1486 - 1555), who for the Order of St Augustine is the patron saint of studies. It is called a senior high school because, in the Indonesian educational system, it will have only the final three years of the six-year high school curriculum (i.e., Grades 10, 11 and 12). In the same city of Manokwari, the Catholic Church has only a diocesan junior high school (i.e., Grades 7, 8 and 9). The city already has ten senior high schools, which variously are governmental, Moslem, Protestant and private, but the opening of Villanova in 2010 had no Catholic senior high school. Villanova Senior High School opened with four buildings: an administration centre, a general classroom block, a staff centre, and a block with specialist classrooms for science and computer education. Construction took five months, and was completed on time.
On its opening day in 2010 the school welcomed forty-eight students, comprising thirty-five boys and thirteen girls, almost all of whom are ethnically Papuan. In some other parts of the world this gender imbalance might be of concern, yet in Papua it is a sign of progress because two generations ago indigenous Papuan families did not offer a senior secondary education to their daughters, who instead remained at home with household duties. Most of the students come from the city of Manokwari itself, but about ten students hail from distant villages in the Papuan interior, and these are predominant among the school’s ten male boarders. Most of these students are from poor farming families, and are probably the first generation in their families to receive a senior high school education. In this first year of Villanova Senior High School, a male boarding hostel (called an asrama in Indonesia) was established in temporary quarters. A purpose-built asrama building for boys wwas later provided. Since then an asrama for girls has been built. This was an important step in social justice by extending educational opportunity to ethnic Papuan girls from villages deep in the interior of Papua. The staff comprises an Augustinian priest as Rector, a layman as headmaster, three other Augustinians, and six lay teachers (two male, and four female). Because of the small enrolment at this point, the director and one male teacher (who is also the office administrator) are as yet the only full-time staff employees.
For involvement at Villanova at a later date, two additional young professed Augustinians have been selected for further academic studies in the Philippines. Through Villanova, the Augustinians desire to show and live what is really meant by the Augustinian spirituality of brotherhood and sisterhood, commitment to learning, and the forming of community among students, staff, parents and the local neighbourhood. All classes at Villanova are taught in the Indonesian language, and English is a compulsory subject within the established standard curriculum of all Indonesian high schools. As is common with this type of school in Papua, agriculture is taught, but not any manual trade courses. Villanova has instituted additional classes on languages (predominantly on Indonesian and English) and local culture (Papuan dances and music) in order to strengthen awareness of identity.
It is anticipated that Villanova Senior High School will grow into a four-stream school (i.e., four classes each of Grades 10, 11 and 12). The school land covers two hectares, and is well located in a growth area on the outskirts of the expanding city of Manokwari, the capital city of the Province of Papua Barat, Indonesia. Villanova Senior High School has had a good beginning.
Photo GalleryFor the Augnet gallery on the Augustinian history of West Papua (including Susweni), click here.Archival Photo GalleryAnother West Papua photo gallery is available, but was produced too soon to include pictures of Susweni. Now over ten years old, the audiovisual presentation has archival interest more than news interest; much has changed since it was produced, and a number of the people shown have died since then. The text is written in both the English and Indonesian languages. http://www.augnet.org/p/Page1/index.htmlAN4221