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Hamtai Tribe: Literacy and Education

ImageBeing in the early stages of development the Hamtai area did not have any government schools. Learning to read and write was something new to the people. Even holding a pencil to write was elementary to them, unlike our western children, who are practically raised with a pencil in their hands.

We missionaries taught the first literacy classes, but later on all the teaching in the villages was done by national teachers. Literacy always accompanied evangelism. Often a village previously closed to us would invite the national teachers in to teach them to read and write. Most of the early literacy classes were for adults. There was great interest, especially in the believers who wanted to read Scripture that was being translated for them. Also, we did not want the children to learn first and act superior to their elders. Later, most of the literacy classes were primarily for the children.

ImageIn 1966 Australia converted to decimal currency from pounds, shillings and pence. So in our adult education classes in the villages at that time we included instruction on how to use their new money. We missionaries had some adult education classes in the villages. I went to a couple villages for two weeks and taught reading and writing and the new currency plus some simple carpentry. At the same time Corinne and a single lady missionary traveled to other villages. Duane was not yet in boarding school so traveled with Corinne. The women taught the same as the men except they taught sewing instead of carpentry.

In 1985 Corinne revised the primers and prepared a new teachers' guide and taught a couple of experimental classes to test them. In those classes she taught Malcolm's daughter and oldest son to read. Then she had teacher training classes to teach the teachers how to use the new materials. She prepared all the word and syllable cards and math cards. She was praying for someone to train to replace her in the literacy work, but while we were living in the Watut Valley on the edge of the tribe it never worked out. In 1991 during the two-year Bible teaching session held interior in the tribe, she had two years in which to train 2 men to supervise the whole literacy program. Now they inspect and advise all the schools, hold teacher-training sessions, prepare all the flash cards and other materials, and order, buy, price and sell all the supplies.

ImageThe number of village literacy schools in session varies between 20 and 30 each year. The schools are all a function of the local churches. The teachers' salaries are paid out of the school fees. The salaries of the supervisors are paid from the general deacons' account which is funded by offerings from all the churches.

The government was slow to introduce schools in the Hamtai tribal area, and the Christians were begging us for more schooling. In 1967 our missionary team started a bilingual school program to teach English as well as Hamtai, taking them through grade 6. This was quite an extensive program, demanding many personnel. It went well until more government schools were established. Their subsidized fees were less than those for the self-help bilingual schools. Later our team started a government correspondence study center so that the students could continue through grade 10. Some of our present church leaders are products of those schools. That school system ran well for many years, but it was discontinued for several reasons.

You can be a part of Tom and Corinne's work. They can be helped by your prayers and interest and financial support if you are led to help in that way. It is a trying and stressful ministry at times and they would deeply appreciate your involvement in their lives.

Their e-mail address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

You can write them at: c/o New Tribes Mission; PO Box 504; Lae City; MP 411; Papua New Guinea

New Tribes Mission address is 1000 E. First St., Sanford, FL 32771-1487.

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