Yesterday I held a somewhat belated housewarming party. All my VSO Colleagues from Kundiawa were here, and most of my Simbu English Teachers’ Association colleagues as well. We had a great time - I made a pasta bake, which was a new experience to most Nationals, and others brought chicken and salad and pineapple, and even some ‘Lamington’ cake from our local PNG-French entrepreneur’s bakery (Gerard owns about 85% of the business real estate in Kundiawa.) And the SP (South Pacific Brewery lager beer) flowed freely, and, I’m pleased to say, moderately.
We toasted the wedding of Andrew and Kim in Canada, we told tales of who we are and where we’ve been, and it was great to see the mutual respect and friendship. When Dee and I were here in 06-07, we so often felt we were whistling in the wind (is that the phrase - oh, never mind!), so much did what we said or did not seem to have any effect. But, in fact, though the frustrations for volunteers are still daunting, I’m amazed at the differences I can see among teachers. Or maybe it’s my perception that has changed, I really don’t know. But last week I attended the end of a workshop on facilitation skills led by Bill Oliver. The participants were from both Primary and Secondary schools, teachers, deputies, and Headteachers. And the final presentations/facilitations they led! So interesting, and so person-centred. Little of the ‘stand in front of class and rabbit’ style I was so used to. Even the young PE Teacher had us running up to him, with two seconds to take in what was on a piece of paper and go back to our team, to see who could get a form filled in first. Laughter, embarrassment, and a chance for the unlikely ones to shine in the exercise!
And how about the SETA side? Matilda and I talked generally in August 2008 about establishing a self-sustaining business, publishing and resource creation. She has outdone even my wildest words and encouragement at that time. The book that she and I edited, and that I got Simbu teachers to write, is now inm every Grade 9 classroom in the country. OK, AusAID put ther money up, but it was Matilda who went and sold what we had created to the National Department of Education and AusAID, etc. Now we’re working on a business plan to consolidate the business and make it a fully self-sustaining entity.
Now, there’s an amount of resentment in the province about SETA. Teachers resent not being a part of it. English Teachers who said they’d create such and such a unit for one of our texts, and who failed to deliver the goods when they said they would, are now saying (I quote one), “I think there must be something wrong with Matilda.” Now, there is something in Tok Pisin called pasin jelus. It means ‘jealous behaviour’, but it means a lot more - the whole attitude which tears down something which someone else has created if you can’t get some share of it, however undeserved. It has been borne in on me recently that this is not something confined to PNG. It runs through Britain as well, though in a different way. I recall D.H. Lawrence commenting on a relative he visited in 1925, after he was an established, even notorious writer. Something to the effect that to her, sixpence was precisely sixpence, and god help anyone who stuck their head up to say some things mattered more. Oppression by the oppressed, we could say.
So, I am delighted to have come here initially as a VSO volunteer. A VSO initiative led to this success; should it now leave it to wither, or grow wrongly because those core teachers who made SETA do not have the financial and planning skills to take it to the next level? And I am delighted to see Susan Dua become the accountant for SETA now. She has the financial savvy, the honesty, and the vision needed. She understands both the Melanesian Way and the ways of International Business, and seems to know when to bend her plans one way or the other, creating a coherent system with respect for her people as well as the transparency without which I won’t be a part of SETA.
So, I’m walking a fine line, but the bridge seems solid enough, at least at present. With which, and a photo of me on such a bridge, non-metaphorical this time, over Wara Simbu, I’ll close!