FSM Congress has recently appropriated funds (Public Law No. 17-30 on December 29, 2011) to each of the Election Districts in Chuuk. The Northwest Election District #5 (Pafeng, Namonweito, and Pattiw) received a total of $200,000 for what appears to be an exact replica of the last appropriations. Once again, of that amount only $9,000 is set aside for education by way of financial assistance; the rest appears to be going straight into a few people’s pockets, lands, homes, and some bandage solutions to the immense needs in those islands.
The Northwest region (and Chuuk State for that matter) seems to be stuck in a vicious cycle of political time warp. If the immense needs in the outer islands are likened to a deep cut in our collective bodies and the elected officials are political healers, then we need to call 911 for we are getting scammed out of proper care. Our political healers continue to apply the same old rotten bandages on our old bleeding and smelly wound. Over the years we, the voters, have looked the other way, held our collective noses, while the healers apply yet another used bandage.
Every funding cycle (including this latest appropriation) we hope the wound miraculously heals itself. Sadly, we continue to let our political healers fool us by buying us cheap, used, smelly , bacteria-infested bandages from the filthy boat pool market while they keep the rest of OUR public funds to travel to Guam to shop at KMart. And we believe them when they return from their shopping sprees to meet with us under the coconut trees and in our uuts and tell us it’s the best they can do for us. They are so believable that we return them into the same positions to screw us year in and year out. Either the politicians are too proud to admit their ignorance, not courageous enough to challenge our people to think about new ways to stop the bleeding, or they simply have stopped caring enough to think outside the proverbial box. Consequently, our Northwest region is stuck in this vicious cycle of the old Chuukese political culture of elected leaders giving the voters what they think they WANT today to get their votes tomorrow; and we the voters don’t know any better so we continue to elect the same old politicians to give us the same old projects (sewing machines, fiberglass boats, land deals, sacks of rice, turkey tails, etc). And the cycle repeats itself every election year resulting in the same old projects, same old handouts, same old kickbacks, same old congressional funding.
Below is the breakdown of the funding for the Northwest (my notes are in parenthesis):
(a) Fishing project …………….. $33,000
(fiberglass boats again? haven’t we learn from the past?)
(b) Coconut oil extraction machines … $13,000
(who owns these machines? how are they benefitting the public?)
(c) Copra Project subsidy ……….. $20,000
(whose copra is being subsidized?)
(d) Transportation needs ………… $15,000
(are these fieldtrip ships to the islands or airfare for the few?)
(e) Leadership travel …………… $10,000
(which leaders for what purpose? what about educators?)
(f) Entrepreneurship subsidies …… $6,000
(which businesses are getting subsidized by public funds? how is the public benefitting from them?)
(g) Project Management ………….. $10,000
(who are the project managers?)
(h) Associations subsidies/contributions $19,000
(which associations are getting contributions?)
(i) Students financial assistance … $9,000
(who and how does one apply for the financial aids?)
(j) Youth activities and programs … $7,000
(what are these youth projects? how do the youth groups apply for funding?)
(k) Food relief assistance ………. $9,000
(are these the sacks of rice that are used during the campaign season to help supporters?)
(l) Multipurpose building renovation… $9,000
(whose houses are we renovating? how are these buildings serving the public needs?)
(m) Sewing projects …………….. $5,000
(who is getting sewing machines? how are these used to benefit the public?)
(n) Land compensation …………… $20,000
(whose lands are we paying for? for what public purpose are these lands used?)
(o) Charter & POL ………………. $8,000
(p) Municipal government projects … $7,000
(which municipality is funded? purpose?)
A few of my questions/ thoughts:
1) How is it that we continue to fund fishing projects (which has meant fiberglass boats to the few) when none of them have panned out all these years? Haven’t we learned that giving people fiberglass boats has ruined our traditional art of canoe-building? Haven’t we seen all these fiberglass boats rusting away in the outer islands because of the lack of fuel for the outboard motors? Haven’t we learned already from islands like Houk where they are ditching these boats to revive the art of canoe-carving? How are we supporting the refrigeration of fish from the outer islands when there are no longer Pattiw and Namonweito Authorities?
2) Why aren’t there funding for Weipat High School, Pattiw Junior HS, and all the struggling elementary schools that have been merged with those high schools due to lack of qualified teachers? Haven’t we learned from the Chuuk State Department of Education that there are only 75 qualified teachers in the entire Chuuk State and most of them are in the lagoon and none of them want to go out to the Northwest to teach in our schools?
3) Why aren’t we investing our public funds into paying tuition for our Northwest teachers to complete their teaching credentials, AA or BA degrees to qualify to teach in the Northwest schools? Haven’t we learned all these years that the outer island schools are the LEAST resourced, last on the priority list in the Chuuk State Department of Education? Why aren’t our political leaders in the Chuuk State Legislature and the FSM Congress working together to advocate for better and improved resources for our schools? The meager amount of $9,000 for scholarship is barely enough to send 2 Northwest students through college.
4) With so many improved technology available to improve people’s lives out in the outer islands, why are we buying sewing machines? How will these low tech sewing machines solve our educational challenges, our reliance on fossil fuel such as kerosene to light our lanterns? Who is getting these sowing machines anyways? What about the sewing machines that were funded in the last round of congressional appropriations and the ones in previous years? Why are we investing in low technology such as sewing machine and copra oil extraction machine when there are much more advanced technology to use for our islanders…solar panels, inverters, computers, etc. Is this the best we can do in the area of technology to meet our children’s need for an education?
5) Why do we continue to fund leadership summit of mayors every election campaign season when we should be bringing together our Northwest teachers, principals, and staff to address our common educational challenges facing Northwest schools? Why aren’t we funding staff development workshops for our Northwest educators and principals to improve their skills?
6) Why aren’t we investing in job training programs to ensure that our youth who migrate to Guam, Hawaii and schools are able to compete in the job market, military base buildup in Guam, etc? Why aren’t we funding cultural revival programs so our youth can be proud of their outer island heritage and learn our traditional skills in the schools?
7) Since there is clearly a teacher shortage in all of Chuuk State especially in the outer islands, why aren’t we investing our money into building the infrastructure to recruit college graduates from the U.S. to serve as volunteer teachers in our schools until we have enough qualified local teachers to take over?
In conclusion, the Northwest region is in dire need of new visions, new courageous leaders to break the cycle. We need leaders who can respectfully and courageously educate our people about the negative impact of this vicious cycle itself. More importantly, we all need to do our part in sowing the seeds of progress. We need to elect leaders who will do their best to show us the possibilities ahead, to challenge us to sacrifice our individual WANTS (morhenirh) over our common NEEDS (ataweerh). And we need those leaders who care more more about helping us over worrying about the next election results.