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.