When he was translating the New Testament in 1998, Alpheaus Zobule realised that few Ranonggans were able to read their own language. He began to develop materials to help them read Luqa, working on it for many years to come.  

The first Luqa language classes were held in the village of Saevuke, a remote village on the western coast of Ranongga that has never had a primary school. Working with the draft Luqa-language Gospel of Mark, Zobule’s cousin John Tengana began to teach basic literacy to Saevuke adults, youth, and children. In 2000, Izikeli Moata of Kudu village attended a workshop on Luqa grammar hosted by Zobule, Tengana, and others in Saevuke. Danstone Beck from Paqe began teaching soon after Izikeli. Tengana, Izikeli, and Danstone pushed the work forward at a time when few people on Ranongga saw the value of learning their own language. They inserted Luqa language workshops into the yearly schedule of the United Church. They walked for hours around the island, carrying books that Danstone had photocopied with his personal savings. Zobule calls them the ‘pioneers’ of the Kulu langauge institute.

Kulu Language Institute, Qiloe village, Ranongga. L-R Alpheaus Zobule, Izikeli Moata, John Tengana, Stephen Buka. 2017.

In the 2000s, Luqa grammar classes were held in community halls, tents, vernadas, even in the shade of large trees. The work halted for a while in the years after April 2007, when a massive earthquake lifted the whole island meters out of the sea, causing significant damage and disruption. In 2011, landowners of the hamlet of Qiloe in Kubokota offered two hectares of prime coastal land to Zobule and the Kulu Language Institute. This remarkable gift has allowed the Institute to take root and grow.  

In the last decade, the Kulu Institute has experienced exponential growth. A significant proportion of Ranonggans, probably around 20%, have taken at least one Kulu class. The school was initially intended for people with minimal schooling, but soon attracted pastors, ministers, lay leaders, and others who work within their churches. Since 2015, the majority of attendees have been young people. Many hope studying Luqa and Kubokota will help them pass exams at the end of Year 9, 11, and 12. Seeing the success of Kulu students, primary and secondary school teachers from all around the island have begun to enroll in the Kulu classes. Even people from neighbouring islands, especially Simbo and Vella Lavella, have begun to study Luqa at the Kulu Language Institute Institute.   

In the early years, many Ranonggan people thought that only English had grammar. Early Kulu students were mocked wasting their time on study that would not help them get a job. Convincing Ranonggans that their language is worth studying has been perhaps the most important accomplishment of the Kulu Institute thus far. 

Read about the curriculum here.

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