Then - 2005
When I first went to Paiga I was struck by two things. The first was the state of the health clinic out of which Denmark had to work. The other was the absence of a primary school within easy distance of the village. The last school I had seen on the way was at Kabuye, over an hour's walk away up the mountain.
The children from Paiga had to walk to and from here daily and it's no surprise that many often didn't get there. They would leave around 7 o'clock in the morning and return in the early evening. Some of the young girls were kept behind at home because their parents were afraid of letting them walk back in the darkening hours. Not unexpectedly many of the younger children were often tired.
When I went back in 2007, I was excited to hear that the community had had enough of this and had built their own school. It's not far from the site of the new clinic and is within no more than fifteen to twenty minutes walk for the most distant of its pupils. In 2007 there were 300 kids enrolled in the school. Not all of them make it every day, but more do than when they had to walk up to Kabuye.
Most of the buildings are pretty basic - thatch roof and walls, thatch matting on the floors; benches and desks made from forest trees. The walls are covered with drawings done by the teachers; they can't afford to get posters and pictures, what they can afford has to be spent on the basic text books. There's little by way of art material; crayons and pencils but no paints. The craft classes have started to decorate the rooms with streamers and doo-dads made from whatever the can lay their hands on either from the bush or from in town.
It was a rainy day when we visited, and I was upset that the only classroom without any matting on the floor at all was the kindy class - kids sitting there on wet clayey earth. It didn't take much for us to buy some matting in town and send it back.
And that's what struck me most; how little it costs us to buy them the simplest of equipment, building material, even staff salaries - it only costs A$180 per year to pay for one teacher.
So, we began raising funds and material for the school as well. We are determined that the effort being made by the community will be rewarded in the same way as their effort in building the clinic has been, and that the next generations in the community will have a better start.
In 2009 we provided funds to build a library and new teacher's room within it. We had collected so many books that the school wanted to have a proper space in which to keep them so all the kids could access them.
In 2010 we funded two of the teachers for a year's training at the Madang Teacher's College and we are committed to supporting them for the 3 years of the course there.
Also in 2010 the school achieved gazettal as a community school with the Department of Education which means they will get access to supplies and in-service training throught the Department. The down side is that this means the school has to scale back to being an Elementary School, Kindergarten - Year 2, because the staff are as yet unqualified. However, the community decided this was an acceptable fallback position as it meant that the youngest kids actually got their education.
The PNG Institute of Medical Research has also agreed to put three volunteers through an in-service course run by the Provincial Division of Education.
There is so much more to do. We need to replace the old school rooms with good timber and tin buildings like the clinic so toddlers don't have to put up with poor health conditions in their early school years. We want to give the school a water tank to collect rain water rather than having the kids run down to the river and haul it up (particular as we have found that the river water is just at the risky end of faecal matter for human health despite what we have been told about people not going to the toilet in or near the river upstream - animals perhaps).
So, if you want to help to build the school up and keep this great example of community self-determination going, consider donating to Paiga. Check out the Donations page on this site.