The Village Programme: a unique way of doing school

by mendibpng

What would you do for your kids’ schooling  if your work mainly took place in a jungle?

Even in this day and age, few options exist for those of us ‘village teams’. Our best option for our family besides homeschooling (exclusively) included enrolling our kids in the Ukarumpa International Primary School. (UISPC) This school is run by our organization, staffed with missionary teachers and administrators. Whenever we are in Ukarumpa, our kids attend UISPC and receive the benefits of the school there. On the other hand, when we go to the village, we home school our kids so that they can maintain the same work as their classmates and fit back in when upon returning to Ukarumpa, sometimes even on the same day as arrival!

Let me introduce you to the people who make it possible for us to keep our school aged kids with us while doing translation work:

Mr. Raube team teaches 5th and 6th grade along with two women. Noah (5th grade) tells me that Mr. Raube is a good teacher because he is fun–he keeps the student’s attention.

Mrs. Owens (pictured above with her family) teaches Noah’s language arts. She explains her perspective, “While village programs ARE a lot of work, I do them because I see the value in keeping families with young children together while parents are out in the village doing the important work of Bible translation.”

Noah’s 5th grade Social Studies teacher, Mrs. Swanson, similarly added, “As a teacher, I am so glad that I can contribute to the needs of translator families by helping to educate their children in a program that allows them to live with their parents.”

Miss Simon, newly arrived in Papua New Guinea, teaches third grade. She has already won over the hearts of her students “She makes learning exciting and fun,” is how my daughter Ellie explains it.

When we go to the Sepik for translation workshops, we travel with green canvas bags full of the materials and lesson plans we need to home school.


Teachers put together lesson plans like the one above, and they also include teacher’s guides and rubrics where needed, so that our kids can stay on top of the work, along with their classmates. If we have a question, I have the option of coming up on the HF radio or emailing the teachers directly.

So why is UISPC such a great option for us as a family?

Our kids are getting a great education. When I say “education” I’m not just referring to academic training. They are learning life skills which involve how to love God and love their neighbors. For example, when I went to a parent teacher conference a few weeks ago, we covered the academic areas: where my daughter’s strengths were, and where we needed to work together to help her. The teachers then told me that they noticed she had been handling herself in emotionally healthy ways. In times of conflict, she has often been one to help others figure their way through it. I do care that my kids are learning to read, write and do their arithmetic but in all honesty, my greater desire is to see them living in a healthy way with those around them and to have good emotional boundaries. Not only this, but my kids are grappling with theology (yes, even at a young age!) and learning about faith in tangible ways. I’m seeing these teachers influencing my kids for good often.

Additionally, these teachers, like me, have left family behind in their home countries to teach my TCK children, in order to support the efforts of Bible translation all over Papua New Guinea. They are as much a part of Bible translation in my mind, as Ben and I are out here in the village. We all have a shared purpose in this task!

If you ask my kids, why they like going to UISPC, they would answer that they love recess, sports, art classes, their friends and their teachers. Basically they enjoy the social aspect of being in school and particularly the ‘specials’ offered by the school, like band and choir.

When we arrive in our village, the first thing we do is clean the house. Then, we set up school as soon as possible so Noah and Ellie don’t get behind in their work.
Ellie prefers to do her school work right at the kitchen table where she can easily ask me questions while I’m cooking or Twin Wrangling. (Our 3 1/2 twins make homeschooling interesting at times!)
Noah, on the other hand, chooses to work in our elevated office, away from the distractions of the little ones.

The village programme enables us to do Bible translation amongst the people of the Aitape West region. Our family is free to participate in translation workshops because of the option of homeschooling. Ben trains and advises Papua New Guinean translators and is also the team leader for our project. Right now the team is revising 1 and 2 Timothy in preparation for consultant checking in a few months. The translations produced by our project are the first scriptures that the 11 language groups have ever seen in their own language.

I have the chance to personally see how they are progressing academically.  This past week I’ve seen growth in Noah and Ellie’s ability in working independently. For instance, Noah read a detailed section of Social Studies on his own: when I asked him the questions, he knew the answers, even to some rather difficult concepts and details. His ability to think critically has grown, too, as I’ve perused his writings in response to the “Precepts” questions he answers in Language Arts. Homeschooling in the village helps me to gain perspective on my kids’ progress.

I don’t want to imply that this program is perfect. I know my kids dearly miss their classmates and teachers when we are in the village, and transitioning back and forth probably causes some gaps in their academic training. Similarly, I know that no school can be 100% perfect. If it has any imperfections, however, in my opinion, it’s that they need more staff. The administrators and teachers we have are often stretched and working hard to cover the areas that are understaffed. This is a huge prayer request because every year, some of them leave for various reasons or go on furlough and the administration has to fill the slots. Will you pray that they can fill them?

Do you or someone you know have a love for missionary kids, and currently have teaching credentials? Maybe you can use your skills to support Bible Translation too!


2 Comments to “The Village Programme: a unique way of doing school”

  1. What a great program! I can’t imagine having to leave young children at a boarding school. We were always blessed in having ours with us as we home schooled. But this is a great method!

    • thank you Adriatic Heart! I agree, I wouldn’t be able to leave my young children at a boarding school either. We feel really blessed that we have this option available to us. 🙂

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