In the last four years, New Zealand has become one of the top destinations for West Papuan student to obtain higher education. Laurens, a student in IPU Institute Pacific United, confirms this claim. Furthermore, he says that New Zealand has many world ranked universities, friendly society, and the environmentally friendly for foreign students. To conclude his story, he, who came to NZ in 2016, so far enjoys his study environment and education quality in his school.
This year, 160 West Papuan students continue their study in this country. This number improves dramatically, 400% increases compared to the last four years. In 2014, less than 30 students who studied. Currently, Many West Papuan students go to IPU NZ, Waikato University, Massey University, Otago University, Victoria University, and others. Moreover, many students also go to several colleges such as awatapu high school and Saint Peter high school in Wellington.
The increase of West Papuan students who study and live in NZ can be the golden moment for both people, New Zealanders and West Papuans to know each other. This can bring also opportunities, such as strengthening mutual understanding not only the people but also the culture. In the future, the interaction and understanding between West Papuan students and New Zealanders may also create the potential cooperation which provides benefits for both people.
Moreover, not many New Zealanders know well about West Papua today. Many news or media in NZ mostly reported other sides of West Papua. They highlight West Papua as a region which is full of problems such as poverty, lack of health access, lack of infrastructure development, human rights violation and other negative things happened in this region in the last years. This is not all true, although there are challenges remain, West Papua is on progressing now.
Papua Island, the eastern part of Indonesia, is four-time bigger than New Zealand. In 2018, approximately 3,8 million people who live in this region, slightly less than the number of NZ population which is 4,7 million New Zealanders. In the last decade, with the Special Autonomy status in 2001, all West Papuan hand in hand work together to develop all aspects in the region, such as democracy, welfare, and infrastructure.
The increase number of West Papuan students in NZ can be a starting point for both communities to know each other. That’s what stated by Laurens who wants to come back and develop West Papua after finishing his study here. According to him and his West Papuan students in NZ, the future of West Papua, the social welfare, peace and development are the main goals of all West Papuan. And, the government of NZ and all New Zealanders can help or contribute in this process.
There are many ways to take a part for New Zealanders, such as by giving more opportunity for West Papuan students to obtain higher study in this country. They can also send their NZ experts or volunteers to help in various sectors such as education, health and good governance.
Overall, the bridge is already developed. The West Papuan student can remain as an agent of change. In other words, they can become a bridge for two communities know each other in short term, but also to create cooperation in the future.