To get to Ruthy Cletus’ house, you have to walk through a narrow track in between low-fenced settlement houses.
In a place like West Taraka in Lae, narrow paths like these are common.
Over the years, what used to be unused Government land at the edge of suburbs have become settlements.
It is on one of these settlement blocks that Ruthy has set up a small school for adults who want to learn to read and write.
“I found that a lot of young people are involved in criminal activities. I also found that a lot of them have not had the opportunity to complete their formal education.
“I wanted to teach people like them. I want them to get an education and be successful or get a job.”
West Taraka is a difficult suburb. Over the last six years, its notoriety as a haven for criminals peaked.
In 2016, a police crackdown saw the capture of several people wanted by police. Apparently angered by the crackdown, criminal elements burned down the West Taraka police station.
It was against this backdrop, that Ruthy Cletus began her adult literacy program in 2016.
“We started and then we stopped last year. We don’t have a roof. So when it rains we can’t run the classes. We don’t have any money for resources so when we find money for books we buy them.
“When we don’t have books or pencils, we write on the ground.”
Ruthy is from Simbu Province and the oldest of with siblings. She grew up in Kimbe and went as far as grade 10. But over the years, she had taught herself phonics recorded on CDs.
“I listen to a lot of CDs. I taught myself phonics and this is what I am teaching to my students.”
Then when a nearby elementary school needed teachers she was called in to teach.
For 10 years, Ruthy worked as an elementary school teacher. She has not been paid since she began working. While that has been a personal burden, it has not stopped her from pursuing her passion for teaching.
Nelson Nelpi, a community elder and Ruthy’s father-in-law who has seen encouraging results from the her classes said this is a program that should be supported.
“I am very happy with this school. I’m also very encouraged to see the older people coming to learn how to read and write.”