THE KOKODA Track Foundation (KTF) will close their scholarship program for elementary and primary school students following moves by the Papua New Guinean government to introduce free education.

KTF had provided more than 1,700 scholarships over the past 10 years, group chief executive Genevieve Nelson said, giving children the opportunity to access education without paying expensive school or project fees.

Ms Nelson congratulated the PNG government on its achievement in making the change to education.

“Free education for elementary and primary students will see more children being able to attend school from a young age. It is such a positive development, not only for our catchment area, but for the entire country,” she said.

Ms Nelson said that more children than ever were enrolled in school, with boys and girls attending at a dramatically improved ratio.

“We are grateful to everyone who has generously supported this program and helped us to change lives,” she added.

The Foundation will continue to provide assistance to all KTF supported schools through its ‘PNG Rich Learning Environments’ project, which supplies schools with high quality educational resources that every child can access.

It will also continue to support 30 teachers with an ongoing salary and access to further professional development and mentoring opportunities.

However, KTF’s focus in 2015 will be on completing the construction of the Kokoda College and opening the doors to the Captain Bede Tongs School of Education.

The college is a state of the art training facility offering tertiary qualifications in elementary and primary teaching and community health work.

Captain Tongs, who died in January this year, was the first ambassador of the Kokoda Track Foundation and served in the Australian Army as Platoon Commander of 10 Platoon on the Kokoda Track.

He was awarded with a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2014.