Sylvester shrugs off hard times

Aringen Primary School teacher Sylvester Usasa with his Grade 6 class out on a science excursion. – Pictures supplied.

PRIMARY school teacher Sylvester Usasa is a man familiar with tough times and tears.
The sixth born of a former correctional officer, Michael Usasa and wife Lucy, Sylvester had left school prematurely for financial reasons and the death of his mother.
After completing only grade 10 at Holy Spirit Memorial High School (now secondary school) in Bogia, Madang Sylvester returned home and remained there for the next nine years.
While in the village he used whatever knowledge he had then to assist his Yawar LLG Ward 21 councilor in writing project plans and compile the ward development plan.
Besides that he was simply another out-of-school ‘ples mangi’. Yet deep down in his heart, he still had a dream to further his education. But again, the huge stumbling block to achieving that dream was a lack of money. To bide his time and look for opportunities, he spent the nine years in the village doing the normal things other young men did – gardening, hunting, extracting sago starch, etc.
But it was not all work and no fun and games. He was part of the village soccer team. Music was a gift of his and he easily fit into the local four-piece live band, Namakam Sounds, as lead vocalist and bassist.
Yet away from all that, he spent nights crying bitterly and praying earnestly that one day he would realise his dream.
All his peers had gotten married by then and were raising families of their own. He seemed to be the odd one out and remained a simple, shy and humble person. He cried much to vent his feelings.
In 2013, his break, away from village life, came when he travelled up to Goroka in Eastern Highlands to be with his late policeman brother. Life was a little tough there so he lived with friends at Zogizo settlement. There again, his love for music led him to the settlement live band. The band played gigs at night clubs and whatever little was paid him, Sylvester stashed away to fund that long-held education dream and an opportunity only time would present.

Forged by setbacks of the past including financial lack and the loss of his mum, the primary school teacher is eager to push his horizons further
A proud moment and a stepping stone for Sylvester when he graduated with a Diploma in Primary Education from the Divine Word University Wewak Campus last year.

Apart from making a bit of money from music, he was also selling items around town. And while doing that one day in 2016, he saw a notice on a billboard. The newly opened Mesauka Secondary School situated outside Goroka was inviting kids out of school to enroll into grade nine and 11 classes. This is it, Sylvester thought. A few days later his application was lodged at the school.
Unlike before, he now had some money saved up over the previous 18 months while in Goroka so paying his own fees was going to be easy.
However, boarding was still out of his reach so he maintained a pig house in village near the school and lived there while attending classes in the next two years, graduating in 2017 with straight As.
Naturally, there were tears of joy on that graduation day. And he was over the moon when he received news that the Divine Word University campus in Wewak (formerly St Benedict’s Teachers College, Kaindi) had accepted him for the diploma in primary teaching programme.
The two years at Kaindi were a breeze because the young man was dead set on achieving his dream of becoming a teacher.
Today, Sylvester is teaching at Aringen Primary School, about three hours’ walk from his Mikarew village.
He is among graduate teachers who are still waiting to be confirmed on the Teaching Service Commission payroll.
But that, he says, is no destraction. He is focused on his work.
“I love my job. It is a noble profession because it is working with future brains of our country,” he says.
Sylvester does not see himself teaching primary school for the rest of his life.
“This is only a stepping stone; it is not the end but the beginning of a new day of my dreams. I have more to achieve after this,” he says with conviction.
Given the tough times of the past and a taste of hard-earned success, Sylvester has only himself to overcome to reach his highest goal in life.

Cultural archives in a container

The containerised archives facility at the NCC Waigani premises.

THE current norm in the Papua New Guinea public service is such that a good percentage of heads of organisations and some politicians are striving for leadership, fame, money and power while the vital resources of the nation are either deteriorating and or being neglected.
Among the vital resources of this nation are information resources and knowledge management societal institutions in the forms of libraries and archives and the arts and cultures. Such institutions have sadly not featured prominently in the development of this country.
However, all is not lost as seen lately where a head of an agency as part of their management responsibility, has established an archival and library facility where their information resources can be stored in one location, and their very own history preserved.
The National Cultural Commission (NCC) has built itself an impressive archives and library facility at its Waigani property within walking distance from the Waigani shopping centre and market. And they did that with a combination of leadership and management, land and shipping containers.
Two other government agencies which have also used shipping containers for records storage are the Department of Implementation and Rural Development and the National Museum and Art Gallery. But the National Cultural Commission facility is a lot more impressive than the others.
The NCC is a government agency established under the National Cultural Commission Act 1994, responsible for preserving, safeguarding, protecting, developing and promoting the traditional and contemporary cultures of the indigenous peoples of Papua New Guinea.
Its other mandated responsibilities include; coordinating and liaising with the Government, non-government agencies, provincial governments and international organisations on cultural matters with regard to overall development and promotion of Papua New Guinea cultural matters.
Historically, the NCC had its beginnings just prior to independence in a body known as the National Cultural Council.
In 1974, the Cultural Development Act 1974 was passed by the House of Assembly which saw the National Cultural Council as a statutory body established to stimulate direct, and coordinate cultural activities throughout the Territory of Papua New Guinea and to advise the Government on policies which would best promote cultural development and to disperse the money made available to it by the Government to organisations and individuals who warrant support.
An organisational change occurred in 1990 when the Tourism Development Corporation Act was passed by Parliament effectively replacing the Cultural Development Act 1974. The National Cultural Council was dissolved as an organisation.
Consequently in 1994, the National Cultural Commission Act 1994 was passed by Parliament with the mandate to respectively perform cultural functions and the NCC later became an office within the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture.
Since assuming its mandated functions, the NCC, due to the lack of permanent office premises has been a travelling agency, firstly occupying an office annex of the National Museum and Art Gallery in 1976, then moving to the now Fincorp Haus, then to the now Tisa Building next to the Holiday Inn, then to the Kennedy road, and then somewhere in the Gordon Industrial area, then to Boroko, and now in downtown Port Moresby having moved there in 2017, and soon to be moving on.
Steven Kilanda was appointed the executive director of the NCC in 2019 and one of his immediate tasks was organising land and accommodation for a library, records and archives facility for storage and preservation of the records of the National Cultural Commission. A large volume of their records had been lost due to their constant moves.
Two 40-foot shipping containers were purchased and installed at the NCC Waigani property. A contractor was hired to build stands and a roof over the shipping containers to create an impressive facility that is now going to be the permanent library and archives facility to house and preserve the records of the NCC.
In the world of information management and in particular the systematic management of recorded information, administrative functions that are fundamental to any organisation include strategic management, assets and resources management, financial management, external relations, personnel and establishment or human resource management and information management.
The fact that the NCC has established an archives and library facility is a reflection of a head of a government agency, who as an administrator sees the importance and value of preserving recorded information as a resource of immense value for administration, legal rights and evidences and knowledge management.
It is hoped that national leaders in particular, heads of provincial governments and provincial administrations can build archives and library facilities for their information resources to be preserved and available in one location for easy access and for sources of information and evidences and where their histories can be preserved.

Libraries and archives are sources of information that hold and convey knowledge and understanding for many uses including decision-making, development and progress.
Without information resources such as libraries and archives, an individual, organisation, and or a society is information poor, liable to be illiterate and cannot fully protect itself and its heritage from exploitation.

  • The writer is lecturer with the Information and Communication Sciences Strand, School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Papua New Guinea.