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Genevieve speaks to over 500 high school students in Kavieng, Papua New Guinea, about whales and the importance of protecting the diverse local marine life.
Photo: Chris Johnson

March 7, 2001
A School Visit in New Ireland Province
  Real Audio

Log Transcript

This is Chris Johnson speaking to you from Papua New Guinea. The Odyssey crew often extend invitations to schools, teachers and the general public as a part of our education program. Our specific aim is to create awareness about whales and the ocean environment, while promoting public advocacy for the protection of all marine mammals.

The voyage has now been underway for a year, during which time we have had the opportunity to talk to many people from a variety of countries, cultures and backgrounds. A recurring pattern has clearly emerged among the local communities and the education systems we have encountered. The demise of many marine environments and the potential threats to its inhabitants can be partially attributed to the lack of resources and educational materials, which consequently lead to a lack of public awareness throughout these communities.

The other day we had the opportunity to invite several teachers from New Ireland Province, to tour the Odyssey for the afternoon. The purpose of the visit was to provide them with curriculum resources. As it happened, 22 teachers from three schools turned up with notebooks and pens in hand. We had a productive afternoon, a tour was followed by a multi-media presentation, resource materials were distributed and we had a long discussion session on curriculum ideas. These educators were well aware of the frustration of trying to teach, often with little or no support, and were delighted with the material we could provide. They explained how difficult education can be, particularly when it comes to the environment, and that the materials we offered were very valuable and would be put to much use. It was pointed out that most students know very little about whales and marine ecosystems, clearly this was not due to a lack of interest, rather a lack of access to information. Most students have never even seen a picture of a whale. "It is difficult to want to protect something you do not understand," they said.

The irony lies in the fact that it is often these very nations dotting the equator that support very bio-diverse marine ecosystems.

Teachers from various schools around Kavieng visit the Odyssey for the afternoon
Photo: Chris Johnson

One of the teachers invited us to talk to her science class the next day at Manggai High School. When we arrived at the school, we were thrilled to find that the word had spread and one class had instead become the entire student body of five hundred. Genevieve and I spent a memorable afternoon in an outdoor assembly area overlooking the ocean. We talked about our work on board the Odyssey, whales and the marine environment, and the effects of human impacts. In addition, we discussed the value of the rich marine life inhabiting the waters in Papua New Guinea and the need to protect it. Our time with the students ended all too soon with the conclusion of the school day, but judging by the number of students who stayed to talk further, the day was a huge success. Before the students were dismissed, Mrs. Lucy Watlakas concluded this special afternoon with a most encouraging and heartening address.

On behalf of the Headmaster, the staff and the students of Oto High School, I would like to thank you, Genevieve and Chris for giving us your time to come over and talk to the students on the research that you are doing. Hopefully. these young men and women who are sitting in front here, will be able to relay the message to those people in the villages and the young ones we have in this province. Furthermore, I would like to say that some of these young men and women sitting here, may become politicians later on in life, I am hoping that at least, if they do become politicians, they will help our country, especially New Ireland Province to look at toxic waste we are having now and that you will help our people here do something about this. So with that, thank you very much.

Log by Genevieve Johnson

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