22nd August 2009
There is a rumour going around that the PNG Prime Minister is dead, which is causing much chatter amongst the teachers this morning.However, I have a sneaking suspicion this is a rumour, but as we have no radio or TV, we have no means of checking until we get our hands on a newspaper.If he is and there's an election, chaos could reign!
Back to the Launch of the Education Plan.A teacher at our school was asked to produce a banner for the occasion, which he duly did and for which he was paid by the Provincial Education Adviser.It transpired, however, that he was given more money than his due and omitted to return the required change to the PEA, who set the police on him.On the same day, our head teacher put money aside to provide those teachers who attended the Launch but were not invited to the official lunch, with some lunch.The above teacher was commissioned (why I don't know) to collect said money and distribute it to the teachers.Surprise, surprise, this was not done and the teacher went AWOL with the PEA's change and the teachers' lunch money clutched in his hot, sticky hands!
He, and the teacher who disappeared for about 6 weeks to drag his daughter back from Port Moresby who had eloped, turned up at school this week to find, I'm pleased to say, that not only have they been removed from the timetable (timetable 20 that is!) but have also been referred for disciplinary action.We sincerely hope they will be sacked, as they are unreliable as teachers, but if things go to form, they'll be very contrite, eloquently state their case, apologise and be reinstated, to the detriment of pupils in the school.
Things are looking up though.Last Sunday morning about 6.30am, I drew our curtains to be confronted by a face at the window.A head teacher, who was due to have a visit from us on the Monday, travelled in to tell us that it wasn't possible for us to visit on that day and he had been waiting outside since first light for us to wake up!So that's a positive result, as they usually just wait for us to arrive at school before informing us that, for whatever reason, a visit isn't possible on that day.So he and his sidekick, who accompanies him everywhere, (aptly named 'Company') stayed for breakfast. (see John and Company holding hands on one of their trips to a school, which requires a 4 hour walk over the mountains and across rivers).They enjoyed their toast and marmalade, which they'd never tasted before.It was the day before John's birthday and so we were talking about that and asked this head teacher how old he was, and he didn't know!!
Not all good news though.Alfred, our most recent volunteer who works with primary schools, returned from a training course in Madang (a 10 hour PMV ride) on Thursday in order to deliver a workshop to a primary school on the Friday.This arrangement was confirmed with the primary school by Jake on the Thursday.Alfred turns up at the school, after travelling on a PMV for nearly an hour to find it is closed.One of the teachers was in town and explained that another teacher at the school was leaving that day and the staff were all so upset that they closed the school!!Can you credit it!
We're getting fed up with the lack of water.The school campus is fed by two pipes.One comes into the school from the mountains and here, the villagers want compensation for it going through their land and because this is not forthcoming, they keep cutting the pipe.Yes, as a result of our complaints, the Water Board keep re-connecting it only for it to be cut again almost straight away.Where the other pipe comes in, there is a settlement of people from the villages living in shacks on the edge of town and of course they have no water, so what do they do, they cut the pipe coming into the school.So, as it's the dry season, the tanks on the school campus empty fairly quickly and there's no water to flush toilets - can you imagine!The head teacher is threatening police action, but he threatens lots of things but action rarely happens.The positive side is that John gets a regular work out, lugging buckets of water from the tank into the house, a task which is particularly strenuous when the weekly wash needs to be done.We are lucky as there are only two of us, so our water consumption is pretty small, but for the families around who have countless children to wash and feed, it must be a nightmare, but luckily there is a river nearby where washing activities can be carried out. We have learned to recycle washing water into the toilet cistern, which works well and at least keeps the toilet flushed.
For us, the hardest thing about living here is the abuse of children.There have been two horrific instances recently, which have upset us badly.One I witnessed from our balcony.I heard a child screaming in absolute terror and, despite John urging me to ignore it, I couldn't, as I thought it might be a child that had hurt itself.So I went onto the balcony and witnessed a woman (I think it was the mother of the child) picking up a little one of about 5 years old, throwing him to the ground and then punching and slapping him.She then repeated the picking up and throwing routine, following in with vicious kicks.The child managed to get to his feet and as he ran away the mother picked up a big stone and hurled it at him - I have no idea if it hit the child, as he had run out of my sight.As you can imagine, I felt physically sick and was shaking and very upset.
Luckily, but quite by accident, we didn't witness the second incident.Me, John, Phil and Jake were working in our school, had finished a workshop and stayed behind to help clear up (thank goodness) and returned to our house for a cuppa by a back path (thank goodness).We heard later that one of our neighbours, a young, muscular male teacher (whose wife we had witnesses beating her son relentlessly on another occasion) had heard that his son, aged about 6 years, had been caught swimming in the fish pond on the school grounds.It appeared he was not so angry about this, as the fact that his pride had been hurt by teachers talking about it and to his mind, suggesting he did not discipline his child.He heard about this right after our workshop, so he went to his house, dragged the child to the front gate of the school and beat him publicly and, according to another teacher, nearly killed him, as he wielded a very big stick.So, had we not stayed behind to clear up after the workshop and walked out the front gate of the school, we would have walked right into this situation and goodness knows what we would have done.
We have found before that there are dire consequences if any man feels his pride is wounded and this guy was completely out of control.He carried on with his frustration in assembly the next day, ranting on about the students being ill disciplined and threatened that they would be 'broken'.We did some demonstration lessons in the school only the day before, and I tell you, there never were such well behaved pupils.We are planning some workshops on 'positive discipline' but I think teachers are light years away from that concept.We'll try nevertheless.
On a lighter note, we had a lovely lunch for John's birthday with other volunteers.It was quite a task accommodating 7 in our tiny little house and providing enough food, with only a camping stove to cook on, but we produced a half decent lasagne with pancakes to follow, which went down very well.John was presented with some home made cards and a present wrapped in 'I Love my Bear' wrapping paper, which was all there was to be had in the town and caused much merriment, as you can imagine!He has been nicknamed the 'Snow Leopard' by Phil, his walking partner, relating to his nimbleness on the mountains, so Phil's present was a second hand book entitled 'The Snow Leopard', which John is enjoying immensely.Plenty of 'wine' was purchased too of course, so it was a lovely lazy, boozy lunch enjoyed by all before everyone had to scuttle off to beat the approaching darkness.
The Country Director is paying us a visit next week to see what we're up to, so we'll have to behave ourselves for a few days.She's in charge of all VSO work in PNG, which includes Disability, Participation and Governance as well as Education.We haven't met her yet as she is fairly new in post, but so far what we have heard is good, so we're looking forward to meeting her.The fact that she's travelling up to the wilds of the Highlands to meet us says a lot - we hardly ever saw anything of her predecessor.Not only that but she's taking us out for a meal at the Mount Hagen Hotel on Tuesday evening, so we'll be out after dark again!There's no end to our high life!!
Well, hope the summer has been good, as autumn will be upon you all too soon and only another week and it's 'back to school' - where did the holiday go I wonder?I hope it was enjoyed by all teachers and the approach of a new academic year is not too daunting a prospect.
Love to all from me and the 'Bearded Snow Leopard'.