Friday, November 25, 2011

Keeping track of those diaries

Mr Nixon Forova with students from Trobriand Islands at the Gerehu Primary School.
“Mr Forova is the Principal of Gerehu Primary School. He is my grandfather’s cousin and they visit each other once when they have time. I barely know him but I will tell you more. My grandmother died in 2009 2nd November and I think he must have come to the funeral service to pay his respects. He is from Gulf/Kerema.”

Words come from a diary of a former pupil of Gerehu Primary School offering a brief illustration of the man who takes care of that school. Those words help illustrate the significance of keeping diaries wherever we go. The writer of the words noted above now attends a primary school at Tokarara, but one can sense the power of recollection as much as the need there is in keeping a diary.

One point worth considering: that wherever they go, either through school transfers or other forms of movement within the city, children never forget their educational beginnings. And so they sit down to write their thoughts on paper. And when they jot down their thoughts on paper, that act alone becomes their gesture of exchanging letters with the world outside them.

To these children diaries are like writing letters to someone. There is always a need to write to someone, out there. Sometimes though, such letters may just become private things, so that each conversation observed daily might just be between a writer and his/her diary. But no matter how private they are or may turn out to be, there is always someone out there to read them and turn them into separate stories in their own right. And those stories will indeed benefit many.
On Monday 5th September this year storyboard felt privileged to be invited by Mr Forova, the Headmaster of Gerehu Primary, to officially open the school’s literacy partnership activities for the week (5th to 9th September). Then of course storyboard found it hard to quickly turn that visit into a story for this column. So he put his diary away and attended to some other things as alternative stories. His grandchildren, however, came to his rescue a few days ago when he decided to look over the diary in search of a story. They, the grandchildren, were always handy when it came to checking and cross-checking certain details, for example, on Mr Nixon Forova, because they too keep diaries – evidence of which is seen at the opening of this article.

The time for that literacy partnership has lapsed, but that does not prevent us from writing a story about this wonderful man from the Gulf Province and his associations with Gerehu Primary School. In fact, both his students and teachers love and admire him so much most would sooner refer to him as Mr. Forever. Nixon Forova comes from Iokea and has spent 38 years serving the Education Department as a teacher, mostly in the Southern Highlands, Gulf, Central and Milne Bay provinces. Of those 38 years we can say that 26 were spent in the National Capital District alone, in such schools as Bavaroko, Koki, Kila Kila, St Peter’s Erima, Sevese Morea and recently Gerehu Primary School.
Aside from imparting upon his students the wonders of the written word through literacy programs Mr Forova also spends time assisting with translations especially of hymns from English to whatever language that suits his fancy. When he was a teacher at Mailu, for example, he had helped translate many hymns from English to that language which are being sung today. He currently works on Toaripi translations mainly of hymns, gospel spirituals and praise songs and even psalms and passages from scriptures. When storyboard visited his school in September he saw how rich this man was with the way he treated language as an important aspect of our lives.
Earlier that week, he sent two women, a Mrs Margaret (Meg) Moguna and Miss Lyn Charles to fetch storyboard; not only to witness the literacy week but to also see if a story could be written about the school’s literacy activities. The entire morning was very successful indeed. A photographer accompanying storyboard could only remark that this school must be one of the most privileged in the National Capital District.

But Mr Forova’s intentions in the realms of literacy programs seemed complete. It is good for all starting from primary school pupils up to start seriously thinking about jotting thoughts down on paper. Write them down now, put them away, and then re-visit them later. You will not regret the habit.
Today, as storyboard looks over his own diaries and those of his grandchildren who have been to that school, on that school, he cannot help but confirm how important this is. Many good stories, great works of literature, first come into being through diaries. And since our article appeared in the National Weekender about the book week at PNG Paradise High School and about the significance of diaries, many have responded with what looked like dairies kept over many years.

Among these was a prize-winning novel, “The Samana Incident: a crime novel about Papua New Guinea”, based on diaries kept over the years by missionaries who worked in the Highlands but which have now been converted to works of fiction that seek to entertain, to inform and to help educate the masses about our beautiful country. Another which was simply titled, “A Soldier’s Diary”, could not resist bringing out what had transpired over what we might regard as Papua New Guinea’s darkest hour in its short democratic life, namely the Bougainville crisis. In that diary now turned novel, there is a description of a party on its way to Wakunai to try recovering a machine gun captured by the BRA from the PNG army.

“The drivers accelerated for two hundred metres then shifted to low gears as we approached the bridge and then, bang! We came into an ambush fifty metres past the Wakunai Bridge. An old man with a shot gun had fired at us. We fired back at him as he ran up the hill naked, dropping the shot gun. The OC ordered us to let him go as long as we got his weapon. He was aged about sixties going on seventies.”

That came from a diary recorded as some 0600 hours on a Monday 13th February 1990 by a soldier serving on Bougainville at the time. Some details are truthful sounding and much contradicts what we are used to by media coverage of yore. It makes an interesting story and we can see now how useful diaries can become.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Women at the helm

The logo of the University of Papua New Guinea.
The most powerful intellectual industrial organization in Papua New Guinea, UPNG’s the National Academic Staffing Association/Union (NASA/NAU), has recently changed its status from a male dominated executive to a strictly female one. All its office bearers from the President down are women.

Industrial Registrar, Mrs Helen Saleu, herself a product of UPNG, described this as historic when informing the PNG Trade Union Congress Executive that “UPNG NASA has an all round female executive as an industrial organization.” At a special handover-takeover function organized by the new executive at UPNG she pointed out that “NASA as an industrial organization has achieved some of the landmark decisions [in the country]” and encouraged the new executive to continue that leadership role “in bringing about positive changes which benefit many other institutions in the country such as the National Research Institute, the University of Technology and others”.

The new executive was voted in on 10th October and the function referred to above was held at the Ulli Beier Cultural Centre on 14th October.

The new executive now consists of President, Ms Elaina Butuna (from Milne Bay and a lecturer in the School of Natural and Physical Sciences); Vice President, Dr. Anne Waiko (from Milne Bay and a senior lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences); Treasurer, Ms Henrietta Simon (from West New Britain and a lecturer in the School of Natural and Physical Sciences); and Secretary, Ms Lois Stanley (from Manus and a lecturer in the School of Law).
Meantime, the male membership population of NASA welcomed the election of the new executive and rendered support for them through former president Dr. Peter Petsul who the current president acknowledged as one “who had successfully negotiated the [almost single line looking] salary package for the 2009-2011 term which expires at the end of this year.”

For over three decades NASA has always been at the forefront of all industrial battles and negotiations, making history along the way which not many of us may care to acknowledge. But it is true of our claim that it is indeed one of the most powerful industrial organizations in the country. From the late 1970s to the present NASA has initiated and caused changes to take effect which in turn not only affected the academia but also the public service, indeed the entire work force, throughout the country. Thanks to NASA virtually all the departments, government or private, enjoy the benefits of Domestic Market Allowances, Risk Allowances, Compassionate and Maternal leave benefits – all in line with the academic industrial union’s persistent call for a single line salary for all, irrespective of race, creed, class or gender.
While we can say that some of NASA’s battles have been fought and won we can still concede that there is a lot out there that remains challenging. NASA is well aware of that. With that in mind storyboard decided to give the President a few posers and the response received was invaluable.

On the question of the single line salary this was the President’s response: “NASA has been a pioneer and advocate for a single line salary based on equal work for equal pay principles at the University of Papua New Guinea. This in our view has been partially achieved in the 2009-2011 MOA where national academics can apply for international market allowance (IMA) based on academic and professional merits.”

On the question of accountability and transparency at all levels of UPNG’s performances: “UPNG is a public institution and therefore must be accountable to the people of PNG. This is a public university; both management and academics must be accountable to the public in the delivery of their services. All public funds must be accounted for under the Public and Finance Act.”

On the quality of staffing: “The quality of academic staffing and retention of staffing is essential, based on the attractiveness of the salary remuneration packages and conditions offered by the University at competitive labour market. I do not think remuneration packages are attractive enough to lure international professionals to be competitive with the nationals on equal terms. If you convert the Kina to US or Australian dollars international professors will be worse off at UPNG than in US or Australian universities.”

Other issues at heart affecting NASA? “NASA needs assessment survey or household and income survey, improvement in staff accommodation, the housing scheme of the national staff that needs to be finalized, development of forward looking corporate plans, establishment of a resource centre, creation of a data base for NASA members and the spearheading of an ‘Alliance of Academic Council/forum of PNG’ as a non government body that should encourage participation from other academic associations from various universities in the country; also increase of fund raising efforts for mentor activities at UPNG and support the administration in the development initiatives to provide quality education at UPNG. The alliance should meet annually to exchange ideas that affect learning at respective universities.”
At this point President Elaina Butuna took a slight pause to place an emphasis on NASA’s involvement at both community and national levels. She pointed out that whoever the stakeholders were in carrying out the projects of the Law building and the Science IV building, should consider 2013 as the deadline for the two to be completed. And she continued: “On the national front NASA thanks the Governor of NCD for his leadership and support for the tabling of the Equality and Participation bill now before the Parliament. The executive congratulates the government of the day for taking a bold step in approving the bill which countries like the US and Australia took over some 100 years to support in recognition of women. Actually, without the aggressive support of the US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, the Australian government and the UN support for this bill would not have been possible in a traditionally male dominated society. NASA appeals to our good 109 members of Parliament to pass the bill for the sake of your children and posterity. Together we can build a strong vibrant society and together we can achieve the goals of Vision 2050.”

And now for storyboard’s final question, what would the President, as someone from Milne Bay, have to offer by way of advice and words of encouragement to the people of that province?

“I am proud to be from Milne Bay and to join the list of Milne Bay pioneers in various fields of achievement, such as Dinah Frank and her book, Under the Mango Tree, Dame Josephine Abijah, the first female parliamentarian and her book, A Thousand Coloured Dreams, Alice Wedega being the first nominated indigenous member of the LCG and her book, Listen My Country, and many others. Being the first female president of the National Academic Staff Association of UPNG is a special honour and privilege especially leading an all round female NASA executive of an industrial organization. This feels extra special yet it is a daunting task but I am confident with my team to meet all challenges as they themselves are intellectuals and respected citizens in their own right. NASA in my view has taken on a new frontier in its leadership role showing the nation that indeed when it comes to brain power both men and women are on equal footing. All our male NASA colleagues were pleasantly surprised and delighted to see us take on the union’s leadership role. Equally so, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Ross Hynes and his senior management team was delighted and pledged their support for my new executive team. I have pledged our support to the UPNG Management team to ensure that UPNG as a premier University of the Pacific lives up to its expectations both now and in the years to come. My team has a catch phrase, “Excellence in innovative academic leadership”, which we stand on during our term of office. We must rise up and take on new challenges and be partners in nation building.” 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A poem by Melissa Sete

                                 DRIVEN AWAY

Let he who has not fallen
Launch the first boulder
Food and wine
Merriment and laughter
Disguised pride and unforgiven feuds
All these flowed crimson
From the devil’s lips
Tainting the beautiful mural
Set upon by angels
Four years before
Dark shadows flitted in and out
Among foreign silk and fine satin
Leather shoes and crystal cutlery
A meek voice cries out
From where it has been driven
‘What God has joined, who is man to separate?’
Both names have already been inscribed
In tablets of stone
And blood from my womb
Has long before

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lahara’s poetic stance is the smile given with the gift of corn, cassava or pawpaw fruit that makes storyboard value lahara’s poetic stance so highly.
When it’s lahara the first thing that comes to storyboard’s mind is music, and the best of jazz pieces at that, plus whiling the afternoon hours away waiting for that ticket from the employers to fly back home to the village.  In the village there is that long stretch of white sandy beach upon your favourite island such as Rourakata, and the lobsters, the clams, the reef crabs and occasionally for the faithful youth escort of the village to the islands a moray eel or two sizzling over the fire.  (The youth would need that delicacy to look after you well.)

That is how it feels when one flees the city like Port Moresby. But the question that comes to our minds now is what Port Moresby has done to us to force us to escape its significance as the capital of our country. We need to go back to storyboard’s jazz selection of music and reconsider.

The jazz music in question usually coincides with the yellow or gold petals that hang down from tall trees all around Waigani campus in November. In some laharas there is often sufficient drizzle to warrant the arrival of the season. And the flowering trees respond to the season with long hang downs of yellow and gold, so much so the campus and its surrounds bursts into flames of just that – yellow and gold. But not so this year. The atmosphere all around looks as desolate as ever. There has not even been a slight drizzle as yet and it seems this could continue until December. Even the fashionable Highlands women amble about the campus with umbrellas not so much to keep out the rain as to stop that damn sun beating down on them mercilessly. But even they look settled. They don’t want to escape the city. And storyboard believes that our attitude to the city should be like that. Good old Port Moresby.

So then, when there is such a season as lahara any time of the year it is true that storyboard becomes overtly poetic in sentiment, composing or reciting poetry wherever he goes, much to the annoyance of those who walk past him, taking quick disapproving looks at him and then walking on. But what matter. Poetry is beauty; poetry is truth.

The best poems in our lifetime come to us during lahara. It is that time of year, if you are living in Milne Bay, when the direction of the seasonal winds change and begin flowing west and southward so that the northern coastal waters are calm and tranquil as ash spread over water. The waters become so clear that some mornings you can take a peek from your canoe and see the floor beds of the ocean clearly from 20 to 30 feet.

Lahara then becomes that season of credence in a year when we think seriously about recharging our batteries, wherever we are. Hence, the significance of the Lahara program at various UPNG campuses and open colleges throughout the country. Since poetry of the lahara season rules the day people from all walks of life think of coming back to school to rekindle. They may be teachers, public servants, business men and women, informal tradesmen and women, ordinary folk of our country, villagers and so on – they know that at one point or another there must be a common meeting ground for us all to gather, re-consider, reflect and feel refreshed. Ah, good old Lahara.

Sometimes in lahara the southerly winds get a little restless, the weather becomes rough, but it is always in those rough moments that we get good messages coming to us from those higher up in authority. For example, as storyboard writes this he cannot help but recall the prime minister’s visit to the Waigani campus some months earlier. At that time storyboard felt enthralled to see his students from Hela all dressed up in traditional regalia to welcome their fellow villager back to the campus.  It was at this time that this villager promised the Waigani population that in his government all education must be free. That every child from prep to Grade 12 at high school and beyond must be given the opportunity to replenish, to rekindle and be free as a citizen of our country. That anyone from prep to Grade 12 and beyond is a representative of our nation’s intelligentsia. And it is his government which will make that as a reality.

But, as storyboard always says, the best poetry of our country usually comes out at lahara. And this poetry has a lot to do with the future generations that surround us a good number of which is found right here in the nation’s capital. Some evenings, as storyboard walks home, these representatives of our very future come out to greet him with kind words. Sometimes with baked corn, cassava or pawpaw fruit, all given away for free. Storyboard fidgets a bit then, trying to find a coin perhaps to give back, but there is often nothing left in his pocket to give away because the day has been exceedingly harsh on his daily budget. Still, it is the smile given with the gift of corn, cassava or pawpaw fruit that makes storyboard value lahara’s poetic stance so highly.