Poco a Poco: We can make a Change
A few years ago, I returned to the village where I grew up to visit families but I decided to turn my attention on remote schools and find out more about schools in remote areas in the region, especially the Inuma elementary school.
Inuma is a small remote village with a population of approximately 200 people living permanently in the village. The majority of the people who are employed live in the nation’s capital, Port Moresby. This village is located in central province in Papua New Guinea and about two to three hours drive out from Port Moresby. The road leading out of Port Moresby, the Magi Highway is bitumen but is rough and deeply pot-holed. This rough and pot-holed roads are visible and commonly recognisable as you set foot on the city’s main roads and back streets as you drive around the area.
One of the highlights of my journey back home was a visit to the Inuma elementary school in the village and thankfully, it was one of my best experience I ever had. Inuma Elementary School is located in the heart of the village next to the village church building. The church is built with modern building materials similar to buildings seen around major cities around Papua New Guinea while the school classroom was built with simple structure.
Remote school experiences
The schools in remote areas are under-resourced with very little or hardly any facilities compared to any typical urban schools in the city. However, one of the things that amazes me as I took time to process and digest these cancerous corruption within the education system was the power of the children that I had come in contact with. For children who live and attend schools in remote areas like the Inuma village in Papua New Guinea, teaching and learning facilities are very poor. Sadly, all schools have similar experiences throughout the remote areas of the country. Teaching in remote school is a commitment and it is not for everyone and the conditions can be very challenging in developing countries. However, it is also a unique experience and can be immensely rewarding, offering a lifestyle you may never get to experience working in cities.
At first glance, the only school building can be seen as a shack from the distance. From the instant I walked into this classroom, I felt completely shocked. The classroom is built with basic structure with the walls and roof built with a mix of corrugated irons, tin sheets and bush materials. It has an open doorway, open window frames and an inch-high gap between the bottom of the wall and the earth floor. It is airy but unsafe environment. There are desks too that are made from materials they could scrounge. I was told that it is common in most elementary schools, the children sit on the floor or all gather in any desks that are available.
It was not surprising to me that many of the children come from under-privileged family backgrounds with either parents having no formal education nor employed and base themselves in the village to be subsistence farmers. Many of them sell their surplus of goods in the city or on the side of the road to pay for their children’s education and buy store good items to supplement their food.
This is the lifestyle that I found myself in a very familiar environment which I am no stranger to it. This is where I began my childhood journey and is still very green in my mind. Taking time to visit schools like this in remote areas, is no stranger to me compared to what I have seen in some of the schools in most poorest countries in the world. Many of the schools in remotes areas have dilapidated ammenities, crowded schools and uneven ratio of students per teacher. Though they lack many of the vital facilities, the children are happy and their cancerous smiles are priceless
The challenges children face in remote areas begins at home. Most of the children’s parents have little or no formal education creates a big gap for a child to further their knowledge and help at home. Adding to these challenges is that every homes are without electricity. Most of the houses have separate shelters for washing and use of bathrooms. It is a problem felt in many parts of the world, especially in developing countries but in Papua New Guinea, the strain in remote areas is acute. The schools in rural areas are often operating out of a single classroom or in unsafe buildings and the teachers are under paid and trained.
Spending time with these children was the best part of my experience. All of these children belong to my immediate and extended families and this is what I have come to see and learn. Sadly, what I have seen with children’s standard of learning with limited resources created an environment that is very depression but everyone seems to be so happy and free. It is a place where the children and community see it as a norm – A lifestyle they become accustom to from their worldview.
The most of the elementary school teachers in Papua New Guinea have completed grade 10-level education which is almost equivalent to year 9 in Australia compared to Australian standard education system. With very little training and no resources to teach English it can be difficult at times between the teachers and their students. Many of the children learn English at school as their third or fourth language after their native language and Tok Pisin and Motu. It is not surprising that most children entering grade 3 cannot read or write.
These children spend three years in elementary school (prep, grade 1 and 2) and in grade 3, teachers have to start again and teach basic literacy skills and many go to a boarding school depending on parents’ financial situation or stay in the village and leave for school every morning which are about 20 – 30 kilometres away. Many children had to wake up about three or four in the morning each day to make their journey to school by foot and return home after school.
From what I have seen and observed, the children in remote areas are happy and always eager to learn. They have the luxury of freedom and the breath of fresh air goes a long way. They may struggle but living and studying in remote areas surrounded with rich natural environment creates an atmosphere where everything is worthless. It is definitely a place for adventure travellers paradise.
From Personal Perspective:
It was an experience visiting this elementary schools, I feel so proud for the students and giving credits to remote elementary teachers. They commit their time and effort to educate these children in this appalling conditions but the lifestyle is incredibly amazing. The children have to start somewhere and this is where it all begins.