By EUNAR KARATU
TUBU village in Central has proven that where there is a will there is a way. And proof of that is a new low-cost double classroom for elementary and primary levels – built by the villagers themselves with the help of volunteers, friends and partners.
It’s taken 25 long years to get there, but get there they have. In that quarter of a century, Tubu, along the Hiritano highway, enjoyed no physical school infrastructure. In that time, people were born and grew into voting age; so much opportunities lost.
Now things will change and a new generation of Tubuans will grow up in classrooms with a future much brighter and opportunities more promising.
A son of Tubu, Justice Stephen Kassman, said the village, within the Nara ward, is home to at least 500 people, and they live in a part of Central that has seen not much development, with litte access to services and facilities for basic needs like education, health, clean drinking water, sanitation services and food security.
“Therefore, with the help of Cheshire disAbility Services (CdS) we have come up with a plan that calls for increased government contribution, and the community’s participation to bring such services to the people,” Kassman said.
Justice Kassman’s sister, Margaret, has also been in the engineroom. She said that there had been no school for for 20 years until 2014 when when they started an education project. The first school was run at the main village for students up to grade 6.
She said when the village moved to the roadside, Anna Lisa, the wife of Kassman’s cousin Maka, ran classes.
“The committee comprised of only a handful and Justice Kassman sponsored Anna Lisa to attend a six-week workshop for elementary school teachers,” she said.
“We then commenced the process of fundraising and forming a school board to start the process of getting back our school registration with the Department of Education.
“It was sad to see a generation of children miss out on education. From speaking with the village community they were sending their children to live with family in Port Moresby to be raised and have an education.”
Margaret Kassman said some parents sent their children to nearby villages which had schools but that was still a long way away.
“It was more a case of identifying a family member that moved to get married at that village who then took care of the child at school,” she said.
“In most cases the parents would move back to the village and the children would return with them, ending of their education. They would end up getting married at a very young age and start a family.
“My village of Tubu has missed out on two decades of potential students who would have by now had the capacity to lead, develop, and add to further growth in the village.
“Our people have missed out on their right to education. They have lived solely to maiantain their own gardening and hunting lifestyle and sell produce to buy the basic essentials. This situation has affected progress to the community and to some extent left them disadvantaged in not knowing the difference and not confident to challenge areas of concern that affect the community.”
The nearest school from Tubu is 15 kilometres away, which had made it difficult for students to be at school on time every day.
Then there are other obstacles more difficult to overcome. “The main one would be funds,” Margaret Kassman said.
“The school registration number ended up being used by another village (Kai’au) and so allocated funding was and still is going to that school, which is illegal. The absence of such a fundamental facility has eroded the village’s human resource capital.
“Hopelessness and increasing frustration levels have driven the youth to overindulge in drugs and substance abuse, resulting in widespread law-and-order issues within and beyond the village.
Enter Justice Stephen. Touched by the prospects of seeing more young people grow up without hope, the judge sought the help of Cheshire disAbility Services to mobilise people to lead and find a more inclusive and participatory approach to address the deteriorating situation.
“Despite limited financial resources, the community is sacrificing all they have with a bid to secure the future of their children and the youth,” he said.
“The interventions outlined in the plan will help alleviate the long-standing and extreme poverty situation which has caused much suffering and which has continued to threaten the economic and social fabrics of the community and its neighborhood.”
Two goals were set by following the community’s own leadership to chart their own development priorities.
The first was the launching of Tubu Community Strategic Plan 2015-2019.
With the support and leadership of Cheshire disAbility Services PNG, the plan charted a five-year development strategy.
The plan, aligns with the national government’s development strategic goals, and emphasises the needs of the community as identified by the people themselves, focusing on education, health and rehabilitation, clean water and sanitation, law and order, food security and livelihoods.
The second goal was the construction of the classrooms.
To enable the school to be built, a man by the name of John Alua Dea, who himself had grown up in those lost years with no formal education, donated land – as a gift to the children.
The community members – women, men and children – mobilised themselves to help with whatever they could do or provide, even if it’s only time and labour.
Friends, relatives and volunteers came from as far away as Port Moresby, a two-hour drive, to help
“To honour Dea’s contribution, the community named the double classroom after him – Alua Neme Lumana,” Kassman said.
Now that the fire has been lit, the people of Tubu are burning with enthusiasm and hope and doing more. The foundation has already been poured for more spacious and permanent classrooms catering for early childhood care education and elementary and primary levels equipped with a library and office. Central Governor Kila Haoda has contributed K100,000 towards the programme.
The community is still fundraising to reach the target of K350,000. They are reaching out to anyone who can help.
- Eunar Karatu is assistant communications and public relations officer at Cheshire disAbility Services PNG .