The tiny community of Punmu in the Pilbara, Western Australia, has designed a fun and effective way of getting kids to school. The community-built barrel train has boosted enthusiasm and school attendance.
BARREL TRAIN HELPING RAISE SCHOOL ATTENDANCE IN ABORIGINAL COMMUNITY
The Aboriginal community of Punmu, Western Australia, has converted more than 20 metal drums into train carriages, providing a novelty way of encouraging kids to attend school.
The whole community jumped on board the Barrel Train idea
For many remote Aboriginal communities, getting children to enjoy a solid education can be quite a challenge.
The Aboriginal community of Punmu, 700km/435 miles east of Newman, Western Australia, has come up with an ingenious idea to overcome this challenge by converting more than 20 metal drums into train carriages, providing a novelty way of encouraging kids to attend school.
About 40 students go to the local school, which has classes from pre-kindergarten to Year 12.
Punmu co-ordinator John Reudavey told ABC News the idea came to him while on holiday in Perth.
"I saw four drums being towed behind a ride-on mower and the parents were paying $2 for the kids to putt around the footy oval, and I just thought ‘What an awesome idea’," he said.
"Obviously we had to make it more robust because of where we are and the conditions we live in."
Mr Reudavey said the whole community had jumped on board the idea.
School principal Sarah Mortimer said the train greatly assisted some parents in the community.
"It’s something positive, it’s something safe and it makes it much easier for families that have younger children at home," she said.
While the school attendance rate was already good, Ms Mortimer hoped the train would encourage the children to arrive on time.
"One of the challenges is getting the kids to school early and getting them to stay all day," she said.
"You can say a child has 100% attendance because they’re coming every day to school, but if they come at 10 o’clock that’s different to coming at 8 o’clock."
The children really seem to enjoy the fun of traveling to school together
In 2006, the Australian authorities have launched a program called ‘Close the Gap’, referring to staggering differences of access to education between indigenous and non-indigenous people within the continent.
With the help of local co-ordinators, which are usually members of indigenous groups, several initiatives have been created to give better access to schooling.
Some of which are very successful, such as this story of John Reudavey, a member of the Aboriginal Punmu community, recently appointed to manage its day-to-day finances and affairs:
Johns’ initiative involved the construction of the novelty barrel train made from old drums, to raise school attendance of young kids within his Aboriginal Pilbara community in South West territories.
Reaudavey reported to ABC News that he got the idea from a visit to Perth, where he saw four old drums with children being towed about by a ride-on mower for kids.
He immediately thought it was a great way of getting the children in his local community to school in the early morning and back home after a full day of education, and the rest of Punmu quickly embraced the idea. On top of that, the children really seem to enjoy the fun of traveling to school together.
“In the morning it’s freezing cold, but to see three or four kids at each house standing out on the road shivering and waiting for the train to come past was an awesome sight.” – John Reudavey, community coordinator in Pilbara.
According to the Australian government, school attendance in Pilbara has risen substantially since the introduction of the barrel train, stating that most of the parents within the Punmu communities used to have difficulties getting their children to school on time and picking them up. With the financial support of community friends Donald Graham and Peter Doery, the whole community assisted to construct the train, making it robust enough to withstand the local terrains.
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