Strengthening International Bonds through Books

An enterprising Haileybury student has collected more than 1300 books for a Papua New Guinea School as part of a pilot partnership program.

The PNGAus Partnership Secondary Schools initiative saw 12 high performing secondary schools in Papua New Guinea and Australia engage in shared experiences.

These included formal professional learning for teachers and school leaders, collaborative projects, student leadership initiatives and school visits.

Haileybury was selected for the program and chose Chiara Maiorino (Year 11) to represent the School.

Before COVID-19 hit, Chiara met Haileybury’s PNG partners at Passam National High School, in rural Wewak. She immersed herself into school life, joining classes, assemblies, and meals.

“Nearly everything about their school was different to ours, and it was very confronting seeing the reality in which they have to learn,” Chiara says.

Chiara was impressed by how enthusiastic, resilient, and inspiring the students and teachers were despite limited resources.

When a student revealed that she didn’t have much opportunity to read as the School had no library, Chiara swung into action.

“As soon as I returned home … I contacted publishing houses, my teachers, and basically anyone whose email I had, to ask for any used books they were happy to donate,” she says.

Supported by Dr Stephan Muller, Deputy Principal Staff Development, Education Research & International, Chiara contacted the Asia Education Foundation at the University of Melbourne.

It offered to help send books to PNG through book donating charity, Buk bilong Pikinini.

Chiara collected more than 1300 books for Passam’s first school library. Almost half were new. After spending several weeks packing and cataloguing them, she saw them off in mid-2021.

The memorable experience benefited both partners. “It opened my eyes to the reality of their world and really highlighted how privileged we are here in Australia,” Chiara says.

Starting in 2019, the PNGAus Partnership Secondary Schools initiative has deepened links and built secondary education capabilities in STEM, English and student agency.

Funded by the Australian High Commission in PNG, it has supported schools to improve their capabilities, empower students through leadership opportunities and strengthen public diplomacy between the two countries.