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JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT YOU’D ESCAPED: THE DISTRICT INSPECTOR

When localisation first reached the level of school inspectors, some of the appointees (‘supervisory teachers’, as they were termed) were somewhat earnest. The first ST to visit Rigo was an intense young man, Nagama Geno, who introduced himself to kiap Ernie Sharp and asked, “And what is your policy for education in the sub-district?” “That floored me for a start”, said Ernie.

District Inspector Tom Stanley went by government trawler to Hood Lagoon and was seasick all the way. When he arrived, the school was deserted. He hadn’t given notice of the inspection and the teachers had sent the kids home while they went fishing. Tom was unamused.

Richard Jones, due to be inspected by Tom Stanley at Sogeri, went into Moresby the Saturday before to buy a blue stetson, blue tie, blue socks, blue shorts and blue shirt with epaulettes. When Stanley turned up in his all-khaki clobber, Richard matched him item for item.

During Wewak prac teaching in 1963, Allan Jones heard that an unknown teacher had composed a ditty, Meehan My Shadow, that raised the ire of District Inspector Pat Meehan. After fruitlessly inspecting each school’s typewriter to track down the culprit, in retribution Pat transferred all single male expat teachers to other schools.

Meg Taylor was head of Baruni when Tom Stanley inspected the school. He offered no comment and eventually Meg asked, “Well, Mr Stanley, do you have any advice?” “No, no, Miss Taylor,” the great man replied, “You’re doing all I could expect of a woman”. Meg exploded. “I’ve built classrooms, made desks, repaired trucks, poured cement floors, what else would you have expected of a man?” Tom had no reply.

“Wapenamanda was 2½ hours out of Mt Hagen,” writes Dave Argent, “5,000 feet above sea level, beautiful days, very cold nights. In those days anyone with a hint of football prowess was highly sought after. So every Thursday the DC’s Landrover arrived to take me to Hagen for training, which then ran into the weekend of the match and then training on Tuesday. Back for one day at the school and repeat the process. Needless to say my first inspection was not good.”

Henry Bodman has noted the eccentricities manifested in some teachers assigned to remote postings. He tells of how a District Inspector visited an isolated school in the swamps of the Fly estuary. Approaching the Education Officer's kunai donga he heard what sounded like a Le Mans race being conducted at maximum decibels. The DI gingerly looked through the door to spy the EO in pyjama bottom and full racing helmet twisting a steering wheel jammed in the wall. He was leaning in and out of corners as the ‘race’ progressed. Glazed eyes refocussed as he realised he had a visitor. He was back in Moresby not long after.

In 1971, at Talidig, Col Booth wrote for the official Education newsletter under various pseudonyms. DI Ian Robinson published the letters and articles even though he must have known he didn't have teachers with the names Iva Braunam and I C Olophit.

Henry Bodman remembers when District Inspector Frank Boisen, one of the legends of PNG education, went on sick leave, leaving George Harrington of Malaguna Tech in the chair. The Tech campus was immaculate and George, a no-nonsense administrator, eyes flashing under macho crewcut, was determined to straighten out a few of us who enjoyed too much kudos with Frank, including yours truly. At 7.45 am one Wednesday George arrived without warning at Kabagap to put the cleaners through the place - with the Victorian Director of Education in tow. Kabagap was always in action by 7.30 and classes had a competitive show-and-tell to start the day. George arrived at my classroom door with the kids performing with customary enthusiasm. I then let them loose on the WA Individual Reading Kit. The smooth organisation could not be ignored even by a Technical Division man, whom I then invited to look after the class while the Director and I talked Victoria and the Great Southern Religion (unfortunately he was a Collingwood man). I made certain we were out of eye contact with George, so he had to hold the fort or come out of the classroom for help. After 15 minutes, with the class growing more restive, I relieved him. The bloke had the grace to admit that he’d come out to prick the balloon and left with greater understanding.”

Ian McLean writes: “Art lecturer Aileen Kershaw was puzzled why I wanted her to mark my paintings quickly. I told her I couldn't stand the suspense! Actually I had buyers lined up. I found many people wanted to own an oil painting, but couldn't afford to buy one. I’d ask what they wanted, whip one out quicktime in class, pass it by Aileen for a mark and then on to the buyer. ASOPA oils-to-order.”

Richard Jones writes: “Are you sure you didn't have a palm pilot all those years ago? For the life of me, I can't remember half those people in the academic staff rundown. But Norm Donnison was unforgettable. He was given the task of giving the end-of-course sex talk to an earnest group of second year males. “Boys, when beset by awful temptations of the flesh and the unrelenting allure of dusky maidens, arm yourself with a trusty axe. Go to the boihaus and chop wood. Chop heaps of wood, very vigorously. The longing will soon pass”.