By CHRISTOPHER PAPIALI
Holy Spirit Primary School is a Catholic Agency school with over 1,129 students and 29 teachers (7 male staff, 22 female staff). It is ideally situated along Modilon Drive, right in the heart of Madang town. Next to the school ground are the Madang Catholic Cathedral, Sisters Convent and Community Hall, which therefore, makes it the biggest primary schools in the province. It is better, bigger and the learning environment is best with its spectacular aerial view that has a long profound history since 1964.
Mr. Moses Gabuogi, is leaving teaching and administration career that spans more than 36 years, spending many painful hours in the classroom and attending to students, teachers and parents concerns and needs. He will say good bye to Holy Spirit Primary School at the end of 2012.
And what more is a better way of sending away this dedicated education messenger by Holy Spirit Primary School Board, parents and children?
He says he want to exit teaching and administration career on a low note. He could not think of other things but seem to revere peaceful and relax lifestyle in his Watougik village, comfortably indulging in his Abu Arapesh speech domain.
When I visited Mr. Moses Gabuogi at 8:30am on Tuesday 25th September at Holy Spirit Primary School, he was very positive about his future. He looked pale but a beaming confidence was written all over his face. He was destined to see another day.
And sitting beside him was his son, Cosmos Gabuogi, He looked like his father and both of them were keen to talk to me that morning.
I have met this great man, who has selflessly dedicated his life to education on a number of occasions at family gatherings and educational meetings. He has not changed really with the way he was talking to me.
This year it takes exactly 23 years for Mr. Moses Gabuogi, to be in Holy Spirit Primary School, making him the longest serving head teacher in one particular Primary School in Madang . He commenced his teaching career in 1976, teaching in Susure, Parui, Alexishafen and Mero Primary Schools in Madang.
He has 5 grown up children (4 boys and 1 girl) and one of them is Cosmos Gabougi, who is also a head teacher at Sibog Primary School in Saidor, Raicost District.
Mrs. Gabuogi passed away on the 6th February 2012 and is buried in Madang. Moses and his wife are from the Wautogik area in Dagua, East Sepik Province. He vividly told me that his wife’s body is in Madang and he thinks of nothing but the next part of his illustrious life would be spent in Madang so that in spirit they are united as one, living the dreams they had together.
There is no denial of how close Moses is to the Catholic Church. He commits his life to the church and a very active Catholic who strongly believe in the work of church in bringing change and development.
Meanwhile, Cosmos looked at me, then stirred at his papa and said: ‘Teaching is a very difficult and tiring job. Your health deteriorates when you are serving remote schools like Sibog. You do not see school inspectors neither school supplies because some of the schools that I taught like Long Island (Saidor District) is inaccessible by road but by sea.
Who wants to come to the island when the sea is rough or when one feels there is very high risk traveling on boat? It is a no go zone and if we are talking about education inaccessibility we are virtually talking about illiterate mass that can never get a good education. We need quality education and quality education is supposed to be accessed by everyone in remote schools too’.
I sat there listening to their stories and such stories were worth listening to because Mr. Moses Gabuogi, represented Post-Colonial Education and his son Cosmos represented post 1990 level of education and experience both in classroom and public life.
Again, Mr. Moses Gabuogi, chewed his buai and looked at me and waited for me to ask him a question. I asked: What do you want staff and students of Holy Spirit Primary School to remember you for?
‘My achievements. My achievements are many but few that stand out are the high academic standard excellence where the school always tops the grade 8 exams per year. I also put up seven buildings in the school which include the elementary classroom, staff houses and others. Even now I have engaged Madang Technical College and Danib Agriculture and Technical School students to do painting and renovation as part of their practical experience during our term holiday’.
‘Can you think of others apart from that?’ I asked slowly. ‘Yes’, he responded.
I could not believe that his other extracurricular duties apart from his life spent at Holy Spirit Primary School were astounding and exemplary to that of a leader who has reached the pinnacle of his life.
He was awarded a Provincial medal for education service on the 25th anniversary. His other positions include:
• Chairman of Board Governing Council of Madang Teachers College
• PNGTA Momase Region President
• PNG National Teachers Insurance Board Director
• PNGTA Welfare Fund Insurance Board Member
• Madang Technical College Governing Council Member
• Malala Secondary School Governing Council Member
• Madang Province Education Board Representative
Mr. Moses Gabuogi with his public relations with the business community and individuals in Madang was able to get support from business houses in Madang that included Moore Printing, Welcome Stationery, Zulu Scientific, Catholic Agency, Late Fr. Joe Fostner (SVD) and others.
He says big companies like MST, Papindo, Madang Butchery, Best Buys, Madang Resort, Madang Lodge, Ela Enterprises, and certain Asian run chain of stores are not assisting schools because they do not have corporate responsibility and all they think of is making more money from the villagers who come into town to do their shopping and use their facilities.
I then asked him again about his thoughts on Outcome Based Education (OBE).
‘You know, after my 36 years I have my own reservation on the implementation of the Outcome Based System (OBE) in PNG’, said Moses Gabuogi.
‘With OBE, we are producing more students but there is no IQ. The ability to read and write in good command of English is not there. OBE came too early because there are no proper training conducted for elementary school teachers, there are not many classrooms to accommodate the increasing number of enrolments per year.
Even more frightening is that in Madang I have noted many of our elementary teachers recruited straight out of grade 6, 8, or 10 without any rigorous teacher trainings. Some of these elementary school teachers are very old teachers, many recommended by the community and the skills level is not there’.
With the previous Objective Based Education, the IQ level was very high among students. If you ask students to memorize the multiplication table they will do it because the knowledge acquisition was more specific and more detailed whereas with Outcome based Education, it is more generic and cannot even pin down to details and lacks rationalization.
When the OBE was introduced in Madang in 1998 there has been high tide of student enrolments with the corresponding increase in the dropout rate at grade 8. Where do those dropouts go? It is a question that none of the education authorities and the national government wants to answer because the effects of OBE were not considered when first introduced.
Having seen these fallacies in our OBE, Mr. Moses Gabuogi strongly recommends the removal of elementary school system and brings back the Preparatory classrooms taught by trained qualified teachers directly coming from teachers colleges.
With the Objective Based Education a monitoring system was there where inspectors visited schools, made recommendations on the schools and advised the schools the expectations of the national government. There was the strong link between high education authorities right down to a classroom teacher. The intriguing relationship could be seen when teachers felt ownership of their duties and the strenuous efforts in empowering the reputation of their schools.
Today after the Outcome Based Education, no school inspectors are visiting schools and hardly you find them communicating with the schools. There is not much support and funding coming from Provincial Education Board (PEB). In Madang, the Director Education is left to fend off himself in seclusion with the bureaucratic red tape.
Despite the insistence of some education officials in Port Moresby in supporting the OBE what could have happened was to immediately identify the problems of implementing the OBE structures, combining a dual form that could produce a relevant and efficient learning and teaching structures more suitable to PNG cultures and environment.
We were exchanging words again and I asked whether or not Holy Spirit Primary School had produced some good outstanding individuals who have made a remarkable progress in their lives.
Mr. Gabougi, was quick to mention people like Nixon Duban, Ricky Dio, Subet Maketu, Nickson Kamea, Lulu Mamba and others.
And he says in every school we should continuously have the visitation programs where outstanding individuals can mentor, inspire and encourage the school children to think PNG and think global. The innovative ways of learning do not necessarily involve the use of laptops and mobile phones but the basic cultural and social learning patterns or attributes that can be shared by local people well versed with customs and traditions and this is more relevant to very isolated rural schools.
‘On the dark side, education services are deteriorating. In most schools in Madang, teachers are not taking ownership of their profession and we can’t blame others but the education system itself’, he continued.
‘The government always talks about holistic development of a child but how could we embrace it when support base is lacking and even poverty line plunging and such denigrating trend cannot and should not be ignored’.
For Mr. Moses Gabuogi, he stood on his grounds. He says a nation that has no clear vision on education is like a ship captain without any navigational skills.
Mass education is the way forward but quality education level that matches the market and even changes the mindset of our graduates to work the land, improvising resources, empowering the community really fits PNG.
He says we do not want a system of education that brings false hope, so much embedded on cargo cult, diminishing our cultural values and inanely jump on Globalization wagon.
We need a balanced worldview and the national government cannot continue on introducing policy after policy. We need a bottom-up structural approach whereby the community feels ownership of the education system with stringent law that allows corporate responsibility to the state and community is made obligatory under the law.
This could mean that any big company operating in PNG should have a 10% - 15% corporate responsibility tithe which the respective companies can develop their own corporate obligation strategies.
For the next 20 years, this retiring teacher does not want to see mass graduates without jobs. He told me very strongly that if only teachers realize the reasons why they choose this profession then they should not take this teaching job lightly. It is a lifelong profession that is most grueling and demanding, and for some they bet their lives to live in most rugged and untouched areas where hardly government services reach the people.
I kept at stirring at the big tree with its lush leaves covering the house. My mind was taken aback, so in retrospect, I recalled how my early teachers taught me, how they labored physically carrying school cargo on their shoulders to reach remote schools like Wapisale Primary school in Erave Local Level Government area. They were my unsung heroes. The yearly Queens Medal should unmistakably go to them and not those political cronies and even politicians who don’t experience pain, enduring years of giving their prime life into building and rebuilding the nation to what it is today.
These teachers never talked about salary, never talked about rewards, but they talked about education per se. To them, teaching was a calling like a religious choosing a celibate life and was not perceived as a profession. They believed in living up to expectations of the LLGs, provincial government and the national government.
I connected my mind very intrinsically to the words expressed by Mr. Moses Gabuogi. I knew right away the path this great education messenger was heading to. He has done his part to grow PNG and it was time for our new teachers in schools like Holy Spirit Primary School to let go of other distractions, put their feet on the solid ground and nurture the learning seeds in schools.
The author is a Researcher, Consultant, Author, commentator on National Development Issues in PNG. Contact him through email@example.com or +675-72111918.