By PIUS MON
THE ONLY all girls secondary school in the Western Highlands province has been forced to close for an indefinite period after landowners demanded hefty compensation for the use of water.
Notre Dame Secondary school, a Catholic agency school was closed by the Archbishop Young of Mt. Hagen, this week after a round table discussion with the landowners and concerned education authorities in the province.
Landowners from the vicinity of the secondary school have demanded for compensation from the school for the use of a water well in the last 42 years.
The main water valve has been turned off two weeks ago, leaving the school and other facilities in the area without water posing a health hazard for the students and staff.
Bishop Young said the Church was providing essential service to that part of the province and if people could not appreciate the tremendous contributions the church was giving them then it was better for him to withdraw the services.
He says compensation will be the last resort but in the meantime the church and education authorities in the province will work around the clock to seek other avenues to fix the problem.
Bishop Young added that they had to close the school and send the 700 plus students home, adding that there was no water into the school and this has posed a health hazard for both the students and the staff.
Bishop Young said the only way to let the government listen to this problem was to withdraw such services, adding that the Catholic Church, as partners in development, does not have any money to meet the compensation demand.
The downhearted bishop also said that other facilities such as a primary school, a health clinic and an elementary school were also closed down as they all come under the Catholic agency and are all affected by the situation.
Meanwhile, the assistant secretary for Education Division, Mr. Hans Gima expressed dissatisfaction over the way landowners have taken up the matter with the school administration and the agency.
A frustrated Mr Gima said students have a right to education and such action by disgruntled landowners will now affect the future of the innocent students.
He also acknowledge the partnership role that churches play in providing basic services such as education, health and others in remote areas where the government cannot reach, adding that the education department supports the move in the closure of the school while they work on other options to settle the matter.
Mr. Gima urged the staff to remain in the school premises while the situation is dealt with by authorities concerned until some solutions are reached.