Smiling through the dry: Drought-hit schools work hard to keep students happy
By Kathleen Ferguson and regional reporters, Fri 10 Aug 2018
Tiny schools in drought-ravaged regions are finding creative and practical ways to help kids and their families stay positive.
Trundle Central School, in the central west region of New South Wales, has had to sell most of its sheep but principal John Southon said they were not focusing on the negative impacts of the drought.
"What we are doing very well is that we are remaining positive; we're not letting this drought pull us down," Mr Southon said.
"We have kids who are working very long hours after school, they're feeding sheep, and they're taking on the pressures of their parents.
"We've socialised our country kids to be tough Ã¢â¬Â¦ they say 'there are kids worse off than us' but I don't believe that anymore.
"These kids are seeing death, dust storms Ã¢â¬Â¦ I want the kids to see Trundle Central School as an oasis in their life."
The school has come up with a range of creative ways to cope, including upgrading its showers and opening them to the community.
"Some of our kids are washing in buckets because it costs around $700 to get a load of water out to some of these properties," Mr Southon said.
"I don't know whether people understand what it's like for a teenage girl not to be able to have long, therapeutic, I'm-a-teenager-shower in the afternoon.
"A family can pick up a key out of my letterbox and have a hot shower."
The school has also taken donations of old cars which are being used in mechanical and artistic projects.
Year Nine student Nick Williams said the new assignments worked as a distraction from the realities of the drought.
"It gets your brain going, gets your brain off the drought, and puts it on putting a motor back together," he said.
"I can focus, but it certainly sets you back a little bit when your stock aren't going real well."
Technology teacher Lisa Rollins said a student trip to the snow would continue to go ahead, despite families struggling financially.
Woodwork students have been making chopping boards and selling them to raise money for the excursion.
"It's pretty cool to have a positive to look forward to at the moment," Ms Rollins said.
"It's hard to imagine that just two years ago students were being evacuated from the school's back oval because of flooding."
Students have also painted over brown parts of school buildings with white, so that they can escape the colour of the big dry.
Student Holly Tomlinson said the approach was working.
"You know it is going to be a good day when you come here," she said.
Plays bring students together
Students from across drought-affected areas in the New England region of New South Wales are coming together to perform plays with ABC New England North West staff.
The first performance will be staged at Ben Lomond Public School where principal Kirsten Reim welcomed the distraction.
"These kids are fairly resilient, but we always talk about rain," she said.
"Every conversation starts with 'how much rain have you had?'"
Student Ruben Jolly, whose family owns a cattle property, said he was looking forward to the play.
"I've been practising 'If You're Happy and You Know It,'" he said.
Performances will also take place at Bellata and Blackville.
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