Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Arehava continued

This photograph shows a group of my Std 6 boys at Arehava PS. Of this group, five are now dead. Malaria is a common cause of death in PNG. From the 1950s, teams of men from “Malaria Control’ visited villages and sprayed houses and out buildings with DDT. The idea being that the Anophelies mosquito bites the person, usually at night and being heavy with blood flies to the nearest wall to rest and digest the blood. There it makes contact with the DDT and dies. DDT gets a bad press, but is still one of the front-line methods of malaria control in PNG.

The District Education Officer instructed me to have villagers build a new double classroom out of native materials. I had a few meetings and the surrounding villagers agreed to commence the building. It wasn’t long before one village complained that the other villages were not helping. Rather than front up to the men who were supposed to be helping, a couple of fellows dressed in warlike gear and came to the school with bows and arrows etc screaming that they would kill the children from the other villages. I talked to them and we had some nasty words, but they left. The students were shaken up and didn’t return to school the following day. I could see that there was only one way to get the job done…pay the group who was half finished to complete the job. They didn’t want money; they wanted some beer. I promised them a little party on completion. Trouble was that by the time they finished the job, I only had one carton of cans between about 16 fellows. That didn’t worry them. Because there was a complete ban on native drinking, they had no idea what a can of beer would do to them. One can of VB and a stubbie of foul home brew I couldn’t drink and they were dancing.
Picture of the new classroom:

The roof material is made of pandanus leaves sewn over a straight piece of palm wood and attached to the rafters with fine cane. When finished it is waterproof…and a rat haven.

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