LEONARD FONG ROKA & DELPINE PIRUKE
BOUGAINVILLEAN TRAINEE TEACHER Delpine left Madang Teachers College (MTC) on 27 July and headed north to Bogia for six weeks of practical primary school teaching. She felt isolated from Bougainville and Madang, but there was a world before her.
Delpine and her group of nine other trainees took off on a Saturday and were on the road for six solid hours, keeping Leonard connected for what seemed like every minute with texts on her mobile phone.
Six stressful hours on the road from MTC: I was worried about leaving Leonard, my husband-to-be; the pain was with me all throughout the journey. To keep it under control, I ordered my fiancée to have his phone on so I could feel peace when my texts were received.
This worked. If it did not, I could have left that practical and gone back to MTC to be with my hubby.
For Delpine, as she admitted, the journey was through an unknown world well beyond her place of Buin in South Bougainville. A significant number of Madang people by the North Coast Highway live a traditional life; nothing is new or modern.
Perhaps Madang people are hesitant to pursue change through development. It is obvious from the Asians and other PNG people, especially Highlanders and Sepiks, who are now control Madang township.
Nearly all the villages by the roads were built of bush materials. Domesticated animals were in the midst of the villages just like in Bougainville’s Buka communities. Roughly dressed children waved at them.
We arrived at 7 o’clock at Munumbo, the primary school where I was to do my practical teaching. At 7 o’clock it is pitch-dark in Bougainville but not here in Madang; maybe Bougainville time is ahead of Madang.
The Munumbo community was comprised of really good people, and friendly; in terms of money they were a bit poor. Unlike Bougainville, there was a lack of retail outlets in the village, so their shopping destination was Madang, 6 or 7 hours to the south.
I had told Leonard earlier, upon the advice of other travellers, that there was hardly any Digicel mobile coverage so phone calls or texts would be problematic. But there were a few hotspots to access the network if you stood in the right place and held your phone in the right position.
Monday we began work. I was given the duty of teaching Grade 7s because others were a bit hesitant to get the higher graders. The problem was that the school lacked resources and materials for teachers and students. So we had to improvise.
The problem was that you would not know whether you the students were gleaning anything or not. This really frustrated me.
Delpine often went to a spot in the house where she and other female trainees were accommodated to decant her frustrations on me, really a man without any connection to the teaching industry.
It was annoying when the lecturers from MTC arrived once each week to assess us teaching and observe our planning of lessons. They knew that Munumbo was really a forgotten school by the Madang provincial government and the national government as well.
Worst for me was the fact that some of these students were older than me. Back at home, in Bougainville, I could accept this because we missed out on education in the 10 year crisis but Madang has no excuse. But they were good students.
Anywhere, peer evaluation helped. This is when every trainees came together to share their lesson planning and other experiences with each other for analysis.
All in all, the experience was great for me to return back home and help my Bougainville students. I feel confident that I will deliver the best teaching service to my people, especially the students in Panguna where I am moving with my fiancée this December.