- © Fairfax NZ News
|TAKING TO THE SKIES: Left to right, Siolima Walo, 26, Marie Auka, 19, Gail Rivu, 21, Selina Kule, 22.Picture by OLIVER WEBER|
Four women from PNG have started a 68-week course at the Motueka pilot training school, on full scholarships funded by the governor of Central Province, Kila Haoda.
The innovative move is part of a plan by the Central Province government to raise the education level and perception of women in the country. The women's progress towards gaining a pilot's licence is being publicised in PNG so that they can act as role models in a country where only around 5 per cent of women are in waged work, according to Unesco.
"It is important in PNG and especially in the Central Province that I promote gender equality, in an industry that is dominated with males," said the governor.
The college's chief flying instructor, Jeremy Anderson, flew to PNG in early March to help select the women. He said the novel scheme attracted 100 applications and he met 10 shortlisted women.
He said they were all well educated, all at university with interests in hard sciences, and he was primarily looking for qualities of teamwork, honesty, leadership and the ability to learn.
The four women are living on campus in Motueka and in May, will be joined by the fifth scholarship recipient, who is currently in pilot training in Fiji.
Anderson said Central Province chose to work with NAC because it had a good reputation and already had links with Air Niugini, PNG's national carrier.
He said the women could be good candidates for jobs with the airline or one of the other airlines in PNG.
He said the school hoped the programme would be the start of an ongoing relationship with Central Province, and there had been talk of another five women coming once the first group had completed their training. The school now has five private students from PNG enrolled as well.
"We're very keen to support them because the aim of equality is very important.
"It's a big deal for them, it's a big deal for the people of Central Province, and we look forward to getting them trained and returned to PNG so they can inspire others," said Anderson.
Trainee pilot Marie Auka said: "We are proud to be selected as pioneer female cadets under the Central Female Pilot Scholarship Programme. This is not only a milestone but an honour and a privilege for us. We are still adjusting to the cold weather, however we are enjoying the hospitality and the friendly nature of people all around us. We hope to learn a lot about the culture and the people of New Zealand as well as learning how to fly."