​Travel costly for teachers on island

The high cost of fuel and remoteness of areas remains a challenge many teachers based in rural areas face every fortnight when trying to access their pay on fortnights.

For teachers on Bipi Island in Manus, they wait till the fourth fortnight to make that trip to Lorengau, simply because one fortnight pay cannot meet the travel cost.

Ms Mary Peter is a Grade Four teacher at the primary school on the island. To get to Lorengau, she travels on 40 horse powered motor on banana boats, a trip that takes up to 5 hours one way.  

“It’s very expensive, about K600 we must save to travel using 20 gallon zoom one way. We usually wait three fortnights and on the fourth fortnight, we go to town.

“We don’t go every two weeks. Our pay cannot cater for that. If it’s within the two weeks and we travel, that pay will only be used on fuel to travel there and we won’t have any money to buy food,” she said.

Peter said it’s even hard for little canteens to be run on the island due to cost.

“For 1kg sugar, if it’s K5 in town, it’s double the price here. Rice is about K7-K8 per 1kg. It’s very expensive to run and maintain. Some survive, others don’t.”

Her counterpart, Mrs Bevery Sangau, teaches Grade Five pupils on the island. She said the cost of travel is so expensive they all contribute and travel as a group.

The school they both teach in has 186 students but most times, the material component of the TFF comes in late and is sometimes damaged.

The biggest challenge the school now has is resource materials for the students as well as reading books and encyclopaedias to update its library.

“Sometimes when we go to Lorengau town to buy, there is no stock and we just put orders and come back. Like for our Grade Six class, we have 42 students but only have about six or seven language text books,” Sangau added.

(Locals on boat arriving at Bipi)

Sally Pokiton