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Project Update: Newton News

Rebuilding work at Newton College in PNG.
Some of the construction work at Newton College. © Jeffrey Driver, 2020.

February, 2020

ABM has received the following report from Bishop Jeffrey Driver, Acting Principal of Newton Theological College, detailing the challenges faced by all at the college, but also of the positive changes taking place. 

 

Dear friends,

I return to Popondetta towards the end of February as Newton College faces one of the more critical years of its existence. It’s probably fair to say that for years the college has been limping along with inadequate funding, buildings in increasing disrepair and facilities run down to the point of collapse. The PNG National Government has taken some decisions that will mean this cannot continue.

In 2018 measures were implemented for the registration and accreditation of all higher learning providers, including those offering vocational as well as university level qualifications. The standards associated with this process have been based on the Australian system and are quite ambitious.

Without registration and accreditation, Newton College will no longer be able to offer higher education awards (even at the certificate level). It will no longer be able to do that which it was established to do.

 

Registration and Accreditation

Applications for Registration and Accreditation are assessed against a raft of requirements, but to summarise; those who are assessing the college for registration, then accreditation, will need to be assured that:

  1. It has all the infrastructure to support a higher education award. This includes a range of factors including governance (composition of Council etc.), finance and administration, an adequate library that is properly catalogued and regularly updated with a budget for new acquisitions, qualified staff and IT access. IT access will be required for staff and students. Up to date student facilities and adequate buildings will be expected.
  2. It has adequate staff and they are appropriately trained. The basic reference point is that a lecturer must have a qualification at least one step higher than the qualification he or she is teaching (for instance, at Bachelor’s Degree level, the lecturer must have at least a Master’s qualification).
  3. It has a cohesive curriculum in line with the educational standards and outcomes as specified by the Higher Education Board. The curriculum needs to be peer reviewed (that is, assessed by another college or university).

 

Dr John Wright taught an intensive on “Torah” during November.
Dr John Wright taught an intensive on “Torah” during November.

Revised Curriculum

It is clear that at this time the College would be a long way short of meeting the necessary requirements, and that to do so, will require a significant injection of energy and resources. The one encouraging piece of news is that the nearly completed revised curriculum has been designed to meet the standards of a modern tertiary system and can be adapted to meet the Board’s criteria for accreditation.

We are now at a point where a decision cannot be avoided. The College Council and the Anglican Church of PNG will need to take some important decisions over the coming months about how they respond to these new challenges, remembering that the same requirements will apply to other Anglican educational institutions as well.

While these challenges loom large over the year ahead, we also have progress to celebrate. We have started teaching the revised curriculum. The new diploma curriculum is for a two-year qualification that will be taught over three years to allow time for the other aspects of ministry formation. Other subjects will be rolled out of this year and many of them have a much greater focus on PNG faith and culture.

A highlight towards the end of last year was a visit by Dr John Wright (former Dean of St John’s Auckland) who taught a subject intensive on the Torah. Other visitors included Lynn Pryor, from Melbourne, who provided training for our new librarian; also Ivan Morrison, from Forbes NSW, who looked at several projects to enhance the physical facilities.

 

Repairs and Restoration 

After years of being allowed to fall into disrepair, we are making some progress on restoring at least some of the physical amenities of the college:

  • Water reticulation pipes have been repaired and a new pump and tanks have been installed.
  • These have been supplemented by some household tanks (though the college still gets low on water during the dry season).
  • Some houses have been refurbished.
  • The Meeting Hall and kitchen has been rebuilt and a steel oven has been provided for the mothers.
  • The chapel vestry has been repaired as it was badly affected by white ants.
  • New mowers have been donated and purchased and the grounds are looking much improved.
  • The single students’ housing has been repaired where it was damaged by a falling palm tree.

These improvements are a very good beginning, but just a beginning. All the student houses need major repair. Some are so bad, they will need to be almost completely reconstructed. 

 

Plans for 2020

Repairs and refurbishment that we hope to complete in 2020 include:

  • Connection to the power grid (about $8000 AUD).
  • The installation of more water tanks to supplement the supply.
  • Completing the refurbishment of the single students’ accommodation.
  • Continued refurbishment of housing.

Once again, we rely on our donors and supporters to help us do what seems to be the almost impossible – but also the very worthwhile!


+Jeffrey Driver

(Acting Principal)

 

Thank you to all our supporters. If you would like to help Newton Theological College achieve its goals, please visit this link:

 Donate Now to Newton Theological College

 

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