DINNER WITH THE GOVERNOR
7th August 2009
Well, the Education Plan Launch eventually went ahead, with much pomp, ceremony and the inevitable day off school.We sat in the blazing sun for four hours listening to interminable speeches - boy, do Simbu people love to pontificate!We couldn't go to sleep, as we were on the front row facing the stage, so there was much mopping of brows and flapping of programmes.There were many, many dignitaries and protocol demanded that each new speaker had to welcome them ALL at the beginning of every speech, so we were looking at 15 minutes welcoming every Rt. Hon member for wherever, before the speaker even began the repetitive rhetoric!!Whew, it was a long morning.
John and I attended a school registration the day before, honoured by the same dignitaries and listened to much the same speeches.We were working in this particular school the day before the registration and were invited to the jamboree by the head, so escape was impossible.We asked what time we should arrive.Puzzled looks all round and the consensus was around 1pm.Next day, a teacher from the school arrived with our invitation (same morning as the 'do') and we asked her what time we should arrive and she suggested about 12noon.We read the invitation, which said it started at 2pm.The final decision was made when Jake came to see us and told us the cavalcade had set off later than intended (there's a surprise then) to undertake their morning handshaking and so would likely be much later than anticipated - he was right, they arrived at the school after 4pm!
We were well entertained beforehand though, with singers and dancers dressed in traditional costumes, bird of paradise, cassowary and parrot feathers in abundance.There was a very scary bit though.There was an enactment of a land dispute, a frequent occurrence in Simbu allegedly.It started with an argument between members of two different tribes, when suddenly, hoards of mud covered men descended from either side of the field, shouting and whooping, wielding huge sticks.They clashed in the middle and proceeded to lay into one another with great ferocity!There were sounds of grunting, yelling and thwacking, as they belted each other, with bits of sticks flying about in all directions, narrowly missing members of the audience, who were going wild at this point. It was only pretend we were assured, but I tell you what, I shouldn't like to witness the real thing and how no-one got killed I don't know.Because of their lateness, the dignitaries missed all these fireworks, but it kept the waiting crowds entertained until they arrived, to much pipe blowing, hand clapping, dancing and processing!It was dark by the time the whole shebang finished and we were escorted back to Kundiawa in the car of the Provincial Adviser, accompanied by flashing police cars and a convoy of security men.
So, by the time we got to the Launch, we were pretty 'speeched out'.The day before it, we were given another invitation, to take lunch with the dignitaries after the Launch and then attend a dinner hosted by the Governor of Simbu in the evening.So we hob nobbed with the PNG Minister for Education and his Secretary for Education, plus the leader of one of the coalition parties and the Governor himself.The Minister is a really charismatic guy who said all the right things, but then he is a politician!He was publicly very complimentary about the work of VSO in education and we got a big clap from the crowd and particularly the secondary head teachers, which was very gratifying.He closely scrutinised the resource materials we have produced for the teachers, to help them deliver the new curriculum and was very interested in how it came about, how many teachers were involved and how long it took etc.So, what with lunch, which finished about 4pm and an evening dinner which started about 7pm, we were not only 'speeched out' but 'stuffed out' as well! We rushed back to the house in between lunch and dinner in the hope of a cold shower, to wash off the accumulated sweat but yes, you've guessed, no water! The food was the same as always, the compulsory whole pig, plenty of chicken and the inevitable stewed 'grass' and rice, but it was all very palatable and we were even provided with wine.Of course, still more speeches, but the evening ended on a light hearted note, with a joke-telling competition.The Governor offered 100Kina (about 20 pounds) for the best joke!!We all had a good time, rolling home in the dark (a rare treat to be out after dark) in the back of an open truck, driven by the senior Primary Inspector.
We're now on timetable 20!!!We're in term 3 week 4.The deputy head announced to the staff at the beginning of week 4 that in the space of one day, 33 lessons had not been attended by the respective teachers!! (that will, without doubt, be a very conservative estimate too).So, the deputy has a plan:
1.He will announce over the loud hailer the name of teachers who should be in lessons and aren't.Problem.The loud hailer is baggerup!!Mmmmm, pity he didn't check that before he announced his wonderful 'plan'.
2.Class captains will walk round the school and then the town, with a placard round their neck saying 'WE ARE LOOKING FOR OUR TEACHER.HAVE YOU SEEN MR/MS SO AND SO?'Apparently, a while ago, a teacher was attacked in town by a group of parents wanting to know why he was wandering around town and not at school.Great way of educating students methinks!
So, Minister of Education, you need to find a way of getting teachers into the classroom as a starter for 10, if you want to see any improvements in student attainment.Our answer is 'sack the lot of them and start again', but the trouble is, the university isn't turning out good teachers either, so hey ho, we've been asked by the head teachers to run another conference for new graduate teachers next term, as well as another two-day conference for them!It's all go in these parts!
Hoping to spend an night in Goroka next week-end at the 'Bird of Paradise' hotel, as they have a special offer on of a cheap rate at the week-ends.It's John's birthday on the Monday, so we're going to celebrate with a treat of a hot shower and a nice meal, besides which, we need cheese!John's age shall remain a secret, just hope he can stay awake long enough to enjoy his evening meal!
Hope the weather is summery.Enjoy!
Love from me and Beardy Man.