Wednesday, November 10, 2010

WHAT STORY SHOULD I TELL?

Tucked away behind  the Nobnob mountain  on Madang’s North Coast is a small school – the Nobnob primary school.  Its students are the liveliest bunch of  youngsters  I’ve met this year.  Keen to learn and well behaved even when the teacher is not there.  
But like many schools through out Papua New Guinea the  fibro classrooms   show the wear and tear of the  generations of kids who came through this school.  
Like many others, I was just passing through to get to a vintage point  where I could get a few take still photographs  of Madang town in the  far off distance.   Walking into a classroom, a met a teacher. I asked If it was alright if I took a few pictures of the school and the children.   Nobnob primary doesn’t have   luxury of  brand new classrooms  but it does have a well maintained playing field and a  tiny library . I guess, that’s what’s really important to kids – being able to play and enjoy growing  up and being able to learn.   Then again you think  to yourself:  How many of our  political leaders would choose to send their children to schools like the Nobnob primary school?  I can’t answer that for you. Some of the  children, wide eyed and curious clutching  worn copies of  oxford dictionaries   stared as I  shot off a few stills on the camera I took with me.  
I wanted to tell a story.  But what story? I’d seen this story repeated  a hundred times before.  What  new story was I  going to tell?  A sob story about children not achieving their dreams because   government subsidies  weren’t always paid on time?  About demoralized teachers  struggling with   pay  and living conditions  as  the cost of goods continued  to rise everyday?   About the teacher trying to decide whether he should have his salary deposited into his bank account  only to have ridiculous bank fees  charged on his earnings? Lecturers in university would  have said  give the story  a human face, Scott.   Make people see that it’s not just about the lovely statistics on flashy Power Point presentations. The kind that  aid donors and government  officials love to talk about in air conditioned conference rooms in Port Moresby.  
Yes. But what story?  The two other teachers I spoke to said  Nobnob Primary is supposed to get 20 thousand kina every quarter  as school subsidies.   But it’s not news any more  that the money doesn’t arrive on time  or that   many times it  does not arrive at all.  It’s not surprising. Not shocking anymore  that our kids aren’t getting  the support they need to achieve their dreams. 
It doesn’t bother us anymore that maybe the kid  in the picture I took won’t become a doctor  because next year  he’ll  have  to stay home all  because daddy’s busy raising money to send his  older brother to high school.
What story should I tell?  For all this has become a monotonous  repetition of  stories with human faces   we all recognize and live with everyday and yet  choose to ignore.  But then again, Nobnob is fortunate to have teachers and  classrooms   and a road leading to Madang town. 
What  about that school in Fiak?  I bet you never heard of tiny primary  school  in some “insignificant” corner of the  Sandaun province  represented only by a mere statistic in  the  air conditioned conference rooms in Port Moresby.  It’s a school that has had chronic teacher shortages  for the last decade.  Teachers just don’t want to go there anymore because the planes don’t fly there anymore because it’s unprofitable. 
So what story should I tell?  

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