Polytech supports emerging nation's education needs

At a ground-breaking ceremony for Bougainville Polytechnic College are (from left) Bougainville Minister for Education John Tabinaman, MP Cosmos Sohia, Minister for Community Development Melchior Dare, Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker and Bougainville Governor Joe Lera. Photo supplied.
At a ground-breaking ceremony for Bougainville Polytechnic College are (from left) Bougainville Minister for Education John Tabinaman, MP Cosmos Sohia, Minister for Community Development Melchior Dare, Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker and Bougainville Governor Joe Lera. Photo supplied.
Otago Polytechnic has formed an unlikely bond with a war-torn island which could soon become the world's newest country.

Otago Polytechnic internationalisation director Marc Doesburg said the link between the polytechnic and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville was formed by ''happenstance'', as the war-torn region sought to help turn its fortunes around through education.

Following a visit to Dunedin by Bougainville Governor Joe Lera in March, Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker returned the favour last month, by attending a ground-breaking ceremony for the Bougainville Polytechnic College.

The region, which is now part of Papua New Guinea, could become a separate country. An independence vote could be held as early as next year.

Mr Doesburg said the plan was for the first building of the polytechnic to be completed by December.

Otago Polytechnic was helping to set up the institution.

The link between the two institutions was formed through word of mouth, after Sidcorp director Mahmood Siddiqi, who is helping the Bougainville Government, heard positive things about the quality of education offered at the polytechnic.

The Otago Polytechnic was helping set up the systems used at the Bougainville polytechnic and tailoring some of its programmes for the Bougainville population.

One of the challenges would be Bougainville's high illiteracy rate.

''Part of the model is embedding literacy and numeracy into their vocational learning.''

Building links was largely about helping out in the wider Pacific region and not about making money.

''It's not going to contribute significantly to our returns. We are hoping to break even,'' he said.

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz