By ROSELYN ELLISON
TEACHER Andrew Tabulo was in Grade 12 when the country became independent in 1975.
Now 58, he remembers witnessing the pomp, grandeur and ceremony of the historic event, caught in the excitement and majesty of the day PNG ended its weaning.
As he celebrates the 46th anniversary of that day, he is also preparing to retire after serving the nation as a teacher for 38 years.
“I was privileged to witness the first independence in 1975. Now I am again privileged to witness the 46th independence anniversary.”
Andrew is from Matong village in the Central Pomio local level government of Pomio district, East New Britain. He is married with eight children. Two are already working while six are still at school.
He is today the head teacher of St Joseph Bitapaka Primary School in Kokopo’s Bitapaka LLG.
He was in Grade 12 at the Palmalmal High School during the initial Independence Day. He remembers how competitive and serious children were about their education then.
“We had this (system) where students dropped out in Grade 10. I was one of the lucky ones to pass through.”
He has been teaching in remote schools around the province and had witnessed changes – both good and not so very good – around the nation.
“Things were affordable with school fees only K150. Food items like rice and tinned fish were only K0.50 each.
“ Today it’s the opposite. We have everything but our law and order issues are on the rise. Then, there was respect in schools and in the workplace. Today, it’s a different story.”
“Discipline in schools was strict. Students were well behaved and their academic performances were outstanding compared to students today.”
Students benefitted too from the expatriate teachers in schools around the country.
Andrew credits the then Haus Boy system for maintaining discipline and conduct among students.
“Today it’s the opposite. We have everything but our law and order issues are on the rise.
“Then, there was respect in schools and in the workplace. Today, it’s a different story.”
He hopes more focus is given to instilling in children early the importance of discipline, respect for elders and authorities, and maintaining cultures and traditions.
“If we revive and strengthen our cultures and traditions, I believe our law and order will be maintained in societies.”
Andrew attended primary school from 1969 to 1974 at his village in Matong. He was selected for Grade Seven at Palmalmal, and completed Grade 10 in 1978.
He was then trained to be a primary school teacher at the St Paul’s Vunakanau Teachers College.
He graduated with a certificate in primary school teaching in 1980. He however did not start teaching until 1983.
He taught at the Rakunai Primary School in Gazelle for 10 years, Water House Primary School in Rabaul for six years, Tapo Primary for six years, Malakuna for five years, Bitapaka for five years and Kabaleo Demonstration in Kokopo for six years.
He plans to spend his retirement at the village, and help out wherever he can in the education of the village children.
As he celebrates the 46th time PNG’s special day, he remembers the contribution of the late Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare who fought for and secured independence for the nation.
“We are here enjoying life as an independent nation, thanks to Sir Michael. He was our true champion.”