Getting to Know Wondama, the First Site of Modern Education for Papuans

Wondama is one of the districts in West Papua province with an important historical record related to the beginnings of modern education, specifically for Papuans.

In Kampung Miei, Wasior Kota district, Wondama is the first place of modern education for Papuans. This place is a village teacher education school which was first opened in 1925.

According to the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture website, this school for educating teachers was established specifically for Papuan children in the Western and Northern parts of Papua. From 1925 to 1945 Wondama became a site of modern education for Papuans.

The establishment of the teachers’ school in Miei was done to fulfil the need for teachers, along with the opening of several schools in the villages in Papua.

Through these educational institutions, the initial group of Papuan elites not only received instruction, but slowly began to realise the meaning of Papuan identity among them.

However, it needs to be emphasised that this initial education was carried out to introduce and teach Christianity to Papuans.

The presence of the gospel in this region is a very important event not only a sign that people in Wondama are starting to recognise Christianity.

The presence of the gospel in Wondama is also inseparable from the first entry of the gospel in Mansinam on 5 February 1855 by Otto Gerhard Heldring and pastor Johann Gottlob Geissler.

The entry of the Gospel in Mansinam was not only the beginning of Christianity being accepted by Papuans. The importance of the role of Christianity can be seen from the various changes that have occurred in Papuan society throughout the Land of Papua to this day.

Education in Wondama is different from the education organised in Mansinam whose students are not only Papuans but also come from Ambon, Sanger along with some Chinese descendants.

Education in Wondama is exclusive to indigenous Papuan children from Biak, Serui, Numfor, Sorong, Jayapura and Nabire.

This education also serves to place students according to their purpose and can result in something unexpected. This village teacher education in Miei is patterned after a dormitory where they are educated to live independently so that they themselves can excel.

The lessons taught are reading, writing and arithmetic. In addition, religious lessons are taught, such as listening to Bible readings, learning to sing, and praying.

Over the years, education has brought about changes in the Papuan people. In Miei, Teluk Wondama Regency, it has brought about very fundamental changes among Papuans of different ethnicities who gather in Miei.

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