Everyday People: Nathalie Lomba

I paid for my own school fees from grades 5 to 8.

I grew up on the island of Djaul in New Ireland Province. Life in the village was simple yet challenging.

When I was in Grade 4, my Religious Instructions teacher was my dad. He taught us how to make coconut oil.

We had to scrape 30 dry coconuts on Wednesday and fermented it for two nights then cooked it on Friday during our RI session.

That was one lesson I've never forgotten.

Because oil was a necessity back in the village, I saw that as a good business opportunity so after that lesson, I started making coconut oil and sold them to my teachers. They loved my products so much that they started placing orders.

I made enough money to pay for my own school fees in Grade 5. And I continued until I completed Grade 8.

I got selected into high school and stopped the business. However, by then I had taught myself to be self-reliant.

My parents never gave me money in high school or secondary school because they were not working. I would always leave home with a bag of buai to sell in Kavieng town and the money I made was my pocket money.

My uncle helped me with my school fees. If he gave me money, that was a bonus. I would use it to buy biscuits and lollies to sell to my classmates.

I knew I would need transport money at the end of term, so I would make sure I raised enough money to pay for transport.

God must have seen my heart so usually at the end of term, he provides transport so I didn't have to pay. But there were times when I had to pay my own fares home.

My uncle is a famous doctor in Kavieng who helped me a lot with the necessities of a student. I am forever grateful to God for him.

Sometimes my classmates asked me for money. I believe they thought because my uncle is a doctor, I must have come from a wealthy background. They had no idea. I helped them with money made from selling stuff that they buy from me. (Some of the friends asking for money had working parents, my parents weren't employed).

For me, selling something and making money was a must because my parents never visited me in school. They couldn’t afford to. My uncle would turn up at school sometimes. I believe God led him because those were the days I really needed to see family.

If he gives me money, I work with the money. When my friends go to town, I would ask them to buy stuff and I sell them. Whatever I needed I budgeted for. I managed the little I made.

In all my secondary school years, my mom visited me once when I was in Grade 11 at Namatanai Secondary School. They never visited me in high school.

She was able to make that trip because she was a women's fellowship leader back then and they had a meeting at Namatanai. The church sent her and since my school was on the way, she stopped by to see me after their meeting.

She didn't know I had been bedridden for almost two weeks.

I had a huge sore on my leg and was unable to walk to class or anywhere. My friends carried me to the ablution and back. I was helpless.

My teachers knew about it but since I never complained, they didn't think it was that serious.

I cried myself to sleep every time I was alone. I prayed God would heal me because there were no mobile phones back then so I couldn’t send word to my family.

I missed classes for two weeks straight. This almost cost my education. The school was about to suspend me for missing classes.

Mom's visit was divine. She was so upset when she found out. I was just happy to see her.

The two weeks that I had missed in classes were very important weeks as we were preparing for the end of year test and Mom showing up that time was all the healing I needed.

I am so thankful to God for answering my prayer. Mom took me to Kavieng and my uncle, the doctor, had a look at the sore then prescribed my medication.

I could walk again three days later.

Mom appealed to the school to let me continue. The principal said I would only continue if I did well in my tests. He didn't think that was possible because I had missed so much.

I sat for the tests and scored really well so they let me continue.

I am reminded of this painful time in my life every time I see the scar on my leg.

I am now a petroleum chemist working with Intertek PNG Limited (a third party contracted by PUMA Energy to test their petroleum products) at Napanapa Refinery.

I completed my degree program at the University of PNG.

I was the first in my immediate family to be accepted into university in 2009, so my parents and I had no idea how to prepare for uni.

Mom had attended uni but never graduated.

Just as well in that year, 2009, the New Ireland government promised to subsidise fees for uni students. We thought that would be enough for my fees. I had a HECAS ticket so I came to POM with no money deposited as school fees.

I overheard my older cousins talking about how I didn't deposit anything for school fees. My mom thought it would be like her uni days when everything was provided for. I was so embarrassed.

Anyway, long story short, my cousin paid for my tuition and accommodation fees in 1st and 2nd year and tuition fees for the 3rd and final year.

When subsidies came in and there was an overpayment, he agreed that I should forward the payments as fees for the following year. This happened every year.

I had some difficulties during third year, which almost resulted in me withdrawing from classes. I had an outstanding of K1200 that prevented me from getting registered.

Again, I trusted God to see me through and He did. Mrs Kitcher, an African lecturer that knew me from 1st year fellowship with Student Life Ministries, appealed on my behalf and I got registered even with the outstanding amount.

When subsidies came in, the fees were paid off and remaining amount forwarded as fees for my final year.

In 2012, I just had to pay K312 if I registered as a day student.

My aunt and uncle living in Port Moresby agreed for me to be a day student and they paid the K312.

I am blessed to have a family that supported me throughout uni, especially when my immediate parents couldn't.

I have always been grateful to God for everything. I always choose to look at the bright side of things and learn what I can in challenging situations, and I like to count my blessings.

Carmella Gware