How Demlyn started a reading school under a mango tree.

Teaching children is a passion for me. Education opens the world as nothing else can!

But in the Papua New Guinea settlement where I live, we had nothing to help the children’s literacy: no paper, no pens, and no classroom – so I started a school under a mango tree.

I live just outside Port Morseby in the peri-urban settlement of 8-Mile, where for years I watched as children roamed unattended as most of them couldn’t get to school. I was raising my own young family, and I knew it would be a challenge, but I dreamed of finding a way to teach these children.

The people living here in 8-Mile come from all over PNG, with different cultures and languages. This can make it hard to live in harmony. We must deal with gender based violence, child labour and street gangs. Some people drink or use drugs. Many children miss out on education due to distances to school and parents unable to pay for bus fares and lunches.

When my father died back in 2011 I felt it was the moment to do something. My father was an inspiration to everyone who met him – he was a Christian who lived a life of service and I decided to honour his memory by being of service as he had been.

I was unemployed myself, and I only had a Grade 10 level education, but I was determined, and attended early childhood training facilitated by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and started classes for children aged six to 10 under the mango tree beside my home. We had no books or pencils but the children were happy to learn.

"Teaching children is a passion for me. Education opens the world as nothing else can!" (Image: Tanya Hisanan, World Vision)

I had almost ten children to teach and no support. We turned scraps of paper, cardboard and other rubbish into learning kits. And then parents and caregivers agreed to pay fifty toea (AUS $ 0.16) weekly for stationery.  It was barely enough but it was a start and I was grateful.

Each year more children joined my class under the mango tree. When it rained, we had to wait until the area dried and was comfortable again for the children.

We stayed under the mango tree until 2014, when World Vision’s PNG Education Project, and funded by Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) started working in the 8-Mile settlement.


We were one of a number of schools supported for the first time.

World Vision partnered with a local charity  Buk Bilong Pikinini  to establish two libraries to help children aged four to 13 years achieve basic literacy and maths.

And then in 2015, me and 21 other volunteers from the project's eight communities attended Early Childhood Education training with the PNG International Education Agency, for our Certificate 3 in Early Childhood Care and Education Teaching.

And now, my ‘Bible Play School’ has real resources!

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We have moved from the mango tree to a permanent classroom built from materials World Vision provided. We have a water tank and learning kits – and I also have another teacher to help me with the growing number of children each year.

I’m so grateful for the support – these children have a place to learn to read and write. They are now protected when it rains.

Friday the 8th of September is International Literacy Day 2017. More than 500 children have progressed to formal education since this World Vision project began. You can support this cause by donating much-need funds to continue their great work.

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