News: Letters from PNG: High School Education

Tony Bozicevic, from Wagga Wagga, is volunteering as a Music Teacher at Sacred Heart High School in Tapini, PNG.

Tony teaches guitar to his students
Well I am actually now writing this report on the two year anniversary of my arrival in Papua New Guinea. After so long it’s almost impossible to know where to begin describing my experience; so many stories, from the bizarre to situations unimaginable back in Australia.

In the class room I have been making good progress with my music students. The music department benefited greatly from the AusAID funding, receiving keyboards, guitars, recorders and various percussion instruments. Students now have a good grasp of reading music and can play simple songs on their chosen instrument. After school hours and on weekends, the music room is a popular room for most students. When they finish school many students will simply go back to the village where they have none of these resources, so they do make the most of what the school has to offer them.

My role as boy’s boarding master basically means I look after any issues arising in dormitory life and all 190 boys who live there. Jobs include getting up at 1am and chasing boys back inside the dorms as they managed to get out; getting up at 2am to calm down an entire dormitory of screaming boys because someone saw a ghost – AGAIN! (Ghosts make a regular appearance!); giving advice to the new students who just came out of the village for the first time about how to use a toilet, and the importance of toilet paper; dealing with problem residents; and attending to any needs which may exist. Students often say they prefer to live at the dormitories than in the village, as here they have a proper mattress to sleep on, a strong timber building, electricity, running water, three meals a day, and, of course…TV!

Tony with his landscaping project
Naturally some days are harder than others, especially when dealing with the lack of resources due to the isolation. I have lost a considerable amount of weight, but on the occasional trip to Moresby I manage to stock up on some of the bare essentials – baked beans and meat.  Generally I am being well looked after, the locals enjoy having me around. Sometimes I feel like a celebrity when walking around the station, the people all love to say hello, have a chat, and they refer to me as “White Maan”. Often the local ladies at the market gift me with locally grown food.

One of my highlights has been my landscaping project. The students and I built a garden and traditional house just to the side of my music room. For 9 months we ripped out all the plants and levelled the land. I built a grotto to Mother Mary in the middle (with the help of my dad when he was here), and beautified the entire area with flower beds and lawn. So this land which once resembled a jungle is now a beautiful area where the students love to sit, eat their lunch, play guitars after school, and just rest in.

My social interaction with the students is probably my most enjoyable element of life here in Tapini. Especially because of my job as boarding master I spend a lot of time with the boys after school. They love to spend time with me, tell stories, make fun, and just acting as teenagers do. Maybe that’s what I’ll miss the most one day when I finally leave.

Read Tony’s full CommUNITY News

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Volunteers don't get paid, not because they're worthless, but because they're priceless. - Sherry Anderson