By PISAI GUMAR
The cloudy atmosphere and light rain on June 21 did not dampen the spirits of students at the Amba Demonstration Primary School in Lae as they put up a cultural show.
Under makeshift shelters, the Grade 6 students assisted by teachers and some parents were enjoying themselves getting soaked up in black charcoal, white and brown mud, coconut oil and getting into traditional regalia.
On the other end of the line of shelters the Grade 8 students dressed in some kind of the latest fashion designs of the Pacific and PNG to grace a cat walk.
At such a young age, the students have the inspiration and motivation to promote their respective indigenous cultures and display some trendy Pacific and PNG designs.
The event boosted their learning about modern dress and cultural bilas and with a bit of research they were able to explain the origin, purposes and composition of the bilas worn.
Teaching children their cultural identity at such a young will make them appreciate, respect and embrace their identity.
It was the Expressive Arts practical exhibition for the Grade 6 pupils to assess how much they know about their indigenous identity.
The students decided to put up a show as a practical exhibition and also to raise funds to rebuild a double classroom burnt two days before the national examination in September last year.
Head teacher Michael Musalu could hardly sit down and was seen moving from one end of the field to the other to get a clear view of each student performance.
The performances comprised of singsings and Pacific and PNG wear parades.
It was the students’ hope and desire to rebuild the classroom that led to such an exhibition to raise part of the K200,000 needed.
The two classrooms are expected to cater for 90 Grade six pupils who are now overcrowded in a single classroom.
Amba Demonstration is one of the pioneer primary schools in Lae. The others are Huonville, Omili, Milfordhaven, St Martin’s and Butibam whose history is linked to the establishment and growth of the city itself.
Most of the learning facilities from these schools have deteriorated. Therefore the schools are beginning to use various fundraising activities to renovate and rebuild to cater for the increased intakes each year as a result of the rural-to-urban migration.
Amba Demonstration is a level eight school with 1,400 pupils, 41 teachers and six streams in all grades totaling 36 classes.
For the school fete on June 21, students extracted charcoal from the remains of the burnt classrooms to paint their faces and bodies.
They also daubed themselves with white mud from nearby Ampo Creek and wore grass skirts, banana and cordyline leaves, necklaces, tapa cloth and colourful feathers.
“We are down by two classrooms this year but the incident was a challenge to teachers, school board and parents to make us think beyond to improve pupils’ learning facilities to ensure academic excellence of our children” Musalu said.
In the interim, the school is looking at building a makeshift shelter to minimise overcrowding before permanent classrooms are built.
“The temporary shelter will cost us K20,000 and the permanent facility requires K200,000 for which the parental component in project fee is required before end of term three to enable the school to execute its building plan,” the head teacher says.
Former students as well as companies and government agencies are also urged to assist in cash because the school has yet to receive its full share of tuition fee-free (TFF) funds.
The school is also planning a thanks giving programme for term three including a pre-independence celebration in September.
The temporary shelters are expected to be completed during the term three holiday.
The new board of management has in place a five-year school development plan and also wrote to Lae MP John Rosso for assistance.
For the June 21 event the school even flew grandmother Anna Pi’inagilu, from Mekeo, Central, to Lae merely to paint traditional Mekeo tattoos upon Beverly Orosambo, the queen of Central students.
Pi’inagilu’s attendance indicated the importance of how our grandparents valued the indigenous knowledge and skills which they utilised to survive before the advent of foreign influence.
The Grade 6 students were grouped into four regions to showcase cultural singsings from each province.
In regional groups, the students shared and learned respective cultures and languages used in song through singsings and the bilas they wore.
Indigenous knowledge and skills are not only about dance and song but also principles of respect, human dignity and values, and how to grow into resourceful adulthood in a community.
In a multi-cultural and multi-lingual society like PNG, encouraging the use of English and indigenous cultural lessons practically instills a balanced world view in students as they grow to encounter challenges in life.