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Project Update: Newton Theological College

1.	Bishop Jeff with Newton College staff, students and families
Bishop Jeff with Newton College staff, students and families.

April, 2020

Update from Newton Theological College

ABM has just received news from Bishop Jeff Driver of recent work being done at Newton College. He and his wife, Lindy, had to return to Australia earlier than planned due to the travel restrictions imposed as a response to COVID-19.

He noted that as many shops closed down across Papua New Guinea, including food shops, people in rural areas are thankful for their gardens which make them less dependent on things sold in the shops.

Thanks to donations received, and Lindy’s nursing experience, both soap and health information sheets were provided to every family and individual connected to the college. The health information will be able to be further dispersed from college staff and students to people in nearby villages.

Bishop Jeff noted, ‘Physical contact is very much part of Melanesian culture, but the college community and those around it are getting used to social distancing, virtual handshakes or elbow bumps’.

Bishop Jeff has been assisting the college to prepare for the new registration and accreditation measures that the Papua New Guinea government now requires from all technical and higher education providers. As part of this, the curriculum has been modernised, with assistance from many people, both in Papua New Guinea and Australia. Another component will be to develop a bridging course for those students who have left school at the end of Year 10 (and have hence not completed Year 12), so that they, too, can access the diploma course.

Students, staff and families enjoyed an “Aussie barbecue with PNG touches” with Bishop Jeff and his wife, Lindy.

“This planning has been assisted by some very committed Anglican teachers from Popondetta Secondary School”, said Bishop Jeff.

Suggestions for the church to consider for the future are possible integration of Newton College with other Anglican higher education institutions in the Popondetta area.

During his visit, Bishop Jeff taught an intensive on ‘The Anglican Way’, using PowerPoint slides on a digital projector powered by a small diesel generator.

Donations have also been used to provide the students with an allowance to purchase necessities that cannot be grown in their gardens, including medicines and rice.

Bishop Jeff concludes: ‘Australians are being confronted by a time of vulnerability at the moment, and that can in no way be minimised. But in all the challenges we face, think of our brothers and sisters not that far away, for whom the provisions of healthcare are at best basic, and [where] income support is non-existent.’

Let us continue to pray for the students and staff of Newton College, their families, indeed all in Papua New Guinea, as they face the considerable challenges of these times. May they (and we) be comforted by Christ’s promise to be with us always, until the end of the age. Amen.