Building Lives: Return visit to Butuka Academy in Papua New Guinea

In the quiet Kila Kila Village, near Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea (PNG), people can hear students reading aloud in the brand new Butuka Academy. 

Walking into Butuka, one finds a harmonious place filled with verdant plants and birds singing happily. Some students are in class, studying conscientiously, and others are running on a modern sports ground nearby.

These are the scenes at Butuka Academy, the PNG and China Friendship School. On November 16, 2018, Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the inauguration ceremony and announced the official opening of the school at Port Moresby. 

"Talent makes up the primary resource. The support provided by China in the establishment of Butuka Academy is to help PNG cultivate talent," said Xi. 

The academy, established under the Belt and Road Initiative, has provided educational opportunities for more than 3,000 local primary and secondary school students who had difficulty attending school in the past. It has also become the largest multi-functional school with the most advanced facilities in the South Pacific.

When talking about Butuka Academy, David, a student from its secondary school, said, "Our school conditions were not good four years ago. Academic buildings and classrooms were all very old and our classrooms were crowded and dim. We had to sit on the floor because of a lack of desks and chairs. Our new campus is quite beautiful. We have a big sports ground so I can run and play football with my friends. We all love our new school."

The academy is a project of the China Construction Science and Industry Construction Limited. It covers an area of 50,600 square meters, including a kindergarten, a primary school, a secondary school, a teachers' apartment building, a multi-functional hall, and a modern football pitch. 

The project team put their hearts into their work and spent just 77 days completing the five buildings, while dealing with the changeable and complex geological environment, negative impacts of the rainy season, and a lack of power and water supply. 

"In the early design stage, we conducted a wealth of research in local areas to facilitate the construction. We adopted features of local residences such as big roofs with gentle slopes and low headroom, and integrated them with elements of Chinese architecture, revealing the mutual learning and friendships between us," said project manager Ma Shuai.

"The new campus has brought us surprises and changes. In addition to the installation and upgrading of hardware, we see big changes in the number of students and the quality of our teachers. Students in our country are willing to study here and more excellent teachers are attracted. I believe our school will become better," said the primary school director.

In 2020, a letter from Butuka Academy was sent to Xi to express their gratitude for his concern for the development of the school. It is mentioned in the letter that the school managed to resume learning and teaching with the support of Chinese friends while facing the impacts of the pandemic. 

In his reply, Xi recalled with pleasure the moment in 2018 when he visited PNG and attended the academy's inauguration ceremony. He also said that China will keep providing the necessary support and help for the development of the academy. 

PNG Minister of Housing and Urban Development Justin Tkatchenko has many times publicly expressed gratitude to the Chinese government and China Construction Science and Industry Construction Limited for building a high-standard school for the locals.

In November 2021, the signing ceremony was held for the maintenance of Butuka Academy. China Construction Science and Industry Construction Limited promised to provide 20 years of free facility maintenance services, which can ensure the normal operation of facilities.

As the old saying goes, "Teaching one to fish is better than giving him the fish." Butuka Academy, an epitome of modern education in PNG, is not only a carrier of talent cultivation in the country, but also a new milestone and symbol of the friendship between China and PNG.

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