Teaching in New Guinea, 1970

Teaching in New Guinea, 1970

Last edition we featured a letter from Colleen Keating, a volunteer teacher in Madang in the late 1960s.  This prompted Manfred Hacker to share his memories of teaching in Alexishafen in 1970.  We look forward to the next installment from a returnee.

Just like Colleen, I was in PNG in 1970. Not quite in Madang, but at St Fidelis Minor Seminary, which was situated near Alexishafen, not too far from Madang.

I spent 3 years there, teaching History, Geography and English. I had come through PALMS from Sydney, and signed up for two years, but when they couldn’t find a replacement, I stayed another year.

St Fidelis was like a Senior High School, they had students from Year 7 to Year 12. 1970 was the first time they had year 12. When I asked to have a look at the curriculum I was told that there wasn’t any, as it was the first time they were teaching year 12. Capuchin Friars from the USA were teaching at St Fidelis. They had a connection with the Capuchins, who were in the Mendi diocese.

All of the books we used in the class room were American, so I taught American History, and Geography with a strong USA content. All new to me, so I was usually a lesson ahead of the students.

I taught English as a second language, which seemed to work, Even the school inspector commented on it, although he reprimanded me for wearing thongs in class!

St Fidelis was a boarding school with about 260 students.

While there I started a dark room, and taught some of the boys how to develop films etc. It was so popular that they were flat out processing the students’ films, and printing the photos.

I remember, we started a yearbook, with stories, and for the first edition we actually enlarged all the photos ourselves, and glued them into the year book. Thousands of photos!

There were six priests, two Brothers and three lay missionaries. The seminary was pretty isolated on a peninsula, about 30 minutes drive from Madang. During the week there were teaching and supervision duties all day and during the evening. Saturdays, one of the Brothers and I usually went to the cinema in Madang.

When I arrived one of the lay missionaries had just finished building a sailing dinghy, but nobody knew how to sail. Luckily I had experience in sailing, and consequently used to get the mail using the dinghy. Nothing more beautiful than sailing in the bay!

One of the Brothers was a pilot, and he flew supplies to Mendi twice a day. Whenever the Friars from Mendi needed a break, they would come to stay with us at sunny St Fidelis College. Consequently we always had the opportunity to hitch a ride to the Southern Highlands for a break. It was at one of those trips that I met my future wife (Pat Tanner) at a small place called Pureni.

I remember my time at St Fidelis fondly, the students were a pleasure to teach, the whole experience was fantastic