Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Economic independence

Economic Independence is domestic ownership of wealth. Real economic independence will be seen and felt if the government has the capacity to provide for its own resource needs or own resources necessary for domestic development. This relates to political independence, because in order for the government to fully exercise its power as an independent body, it should discourage the ownership of resources by a few elites or foreigners, as it will function in their interest and reflect their will.

It is the citizens who should be supplying the needs of the state if we are to see our nation achieving full economic independence. According to Namorong,

“all Governments need resources to exercise their power. If the state owns and supplies its own resource needs, then the state promotes its own interests. If corporations supply the resource needs of the state, the state protects the interests of corporations. If citizens supply the resource needs of the state, the state protects the interests of its citizens.”

Government’s focus is all about mining, commercial fishing, commercial logging – big industry and less or even no attention is given to smallholder extension services or to the so-called informal sector. However, PNG’s economy is dependent on agriculture. At the same time, a majority of the population is dependent on agriculture. The National Informal Economy, given adequate government support, can provide economic independence for the nation, while creating broad and sustainable employment for citizens throughout the nation.. Recognition and strengthening the informal sector, rather than the formal sector (‘cash economy’) can be a breakthrough for PNG.

There’s big potential there because that’s what we are good at doing. We are productive people and it comes naturally in a sense that local people, even without any proper knowledge in agriculture, can produce something and sell. All we need is better transport network and general infrastructure to support the people. Policies should be people-friendly, producer-friendly. We already have the background, in the 2011 National Informal Economy Policy.

For our economy to be fully economically independent, we might also consider the importance of a developed manufacturing sector, in terms of downstreaming processing. PNG export approach is to ship our natural resources as raw materials: this is the central attraction for foreign investment and it’s going to remain that way unless our government takes a step forward on this sector of the economy. It is not necessary that we hand over our resources to foreigners in order to see progress. If it was, the founders of this nation would not have called for National Sovereignty and Self Reliance or for the wise use of natural resources.

Another important inducement for economic independence is being less dependent on foreign aid and foreigners to stimulate our economy.  That includes foreign grants, aid and foreign investment. Our economy is greatly dependent on foreign investment: for example, almost all mining companies are foreign owned. This is not economic independence. Nor is accepting aid, dependence on which disempowers the government from fulfilling its duty to its citizens. A study made last year by the Australian Government’s Joint Intelligence Organization found almost two-thirds of PNG’s economy is controlled by Australian companies and individuals.  And with the rapidly increasing Asian involvement in economic activity here, it is clear that we Papua New Guineans at present control only a very small part of our own economy, and will remain in this subservient position unless firm action is taken to change the existing situation in a meaningful way.

So I would say that this is the real independence struggle of Papua New Guinea. What economic independence really means to me is that our government owning the wealth of the nation and getting only its own citizens to supply its resource needs, not from any other third parties (as in foreigners). We should not be relying on foreign aid and investment to maintain our economy. Economic independence means people of the nation are in charge of generating cash, which stays in the domestic economy. Economic independence is the control of the wealth of a nation by a majority of its citizens. Because of this, developing the subsistence or informal sector in Papua New Guinea can really contribute to the overall independence of our economy. Improvements in road networks and basic infrastructure are the main motivational factors required for people to contribute to PNG’s economy, if they are not already doing so.



Equality and Participation

Equality and Participation is the second National Goal and Directive Principle that is discussed here. This Goal and Directive Principle say: “We declare our second goal to be for every citizen to have an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from the development of our country”. That is, all PNG citizens – male, female, children and others have an equal right to take part in the political, economic, social, religious and cultural life of the country.

Today, are the ordinary citizens of this nation given the equal opportunity to take part and benefit from any activity? Do Papua New Guinean citizens truly enjoy equality in government services, equal participation by women, participation in every aspect of development, the means provided for them to exercise creativity, the achievement of universal literacy, the right to a stable family life?

Our economic system in PNG is not equally distributed. Despite our natural resources, we still face an economic crisis, because certain people are enjoying the wealth and resources while others are suffering. For example, the benefit in terms of money and employment from PNG Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) go to the landowners and its employees alone, not all citizens of this nation. Yet the second goal calls for every effort to be made to achieve an equitable distribution of incomes and other benefits of development among individuals and throughout the various parts of the country.

The second National Goal also calls for the creation of political structures that enable effective, meaningful participation by our people in that life, and in view of the rich cultural and ethnic diversity of our people for those structures to provide for substantial decentralization of all forms of government activity.

However, since independence, politics has become synonymous with corrupt practices like stealing public funds, accepting bribery and playing nepotism in the higher offices. Such practices prevent meaningful participation by our people. Meanwhile, it has become common that men with a high income and a lot of cargo are able to take part in elections while more women and men with little money are being deprived of their right to participation.

The Second Goal further calls for equality of services in all parts of the country, and for every citizen to have equal access to legal processes and all services, governmental and otherwise, that are required for the fulfillment of his or her real needs and aspirations.

Yet the majority of the people are unaware of any government services. Many people do not have access to adequate road, health and education services. Where is the decentralization of all forms of government activity? Obviously, there is no evidence to suggest that any government since Independence has created political structures for the equal benefit of the entire population.

Successive governments since independence have forgotten about the many Papua New Guineans marginalised and isolated largely by vast geographically terrains and the lack of a road link with the outside world. This is the case in my home in Nipa Kutubu electorate in the Southern Highlands Province, where there is no road. Many parts of the country are still in darkness in terms of basic services, meaning that there is no equal distribution of government services. There is no effort made to achieve an equitable distribution of incomes and other benefits of development.

The second goal further calls for equal participation by women citizens in all political, economic, social and religious activities. Politically, women are far behind men despite the three female elected members in the parliament in the current election (2012). Men and women would have been equally represented in politics if there had been more than 40 or 50 female members voted into Parliament. At present there are only three female members out of the 111 Members.

Nor do women have equal participation in all economic, social and religious activities. However, according to Papua New Guinea population statistics the number of women is greater than men. Does the government maximize the opportunities for women to participate in the development of the nation? Evidently, there is no equal participation by women.

Moreover, the second goal calls for means to be provided to ensure that any citizen can exercise his personal creativity and enterprise in pursuit of fulfillment that is consistent with the common good, and for no citizen to be deprived of this opportunity because of the predominant position of another. It is obvious everywhere that jealousy is one of the main factors depriving the rights of individual or group from partaking in activities that would sustain their lives. At the same time, people fear that if they start up a business, they would end up losing their lives by thugs. For instance, the Post Courier (‘Pregnant woman pack raped, dies’, August 21, 2012), reported that a pregnant woman was raped and killed on her way to Bogia to sell their garden produce at the local market. These threats mean that women are indirectly deprived of their right to pursue income generation safely, without fear of their lives. What is the government’s stance on the safety of our market women, who work to feed our families and communities?

It is absolutely clear there is no participation either directly or indirectly by many societies in the decision-making process in this country, despite the fact those decisions affect all individuals. The majority of people are not aware of what the government is doing. This is due to the lack of development in education, road, health and other basic services. Evidently, high illiteracy is the main factor that prevents participation. The National (‘Stocking Literacy Statistics’,August 16, 2012), stated that 43.8% of Papua New Guineans are illiterate. Thus decisions in many societies are made by the educated people – the majority follows them without knowing the outcome of the decision.

At the national level the government makes the decision for every citizen of this nation. However, the consequences will be faced by everybody. Therefore, the government needs to ensure any government activity reaches the community level. Thus, every citizen will not only take part and benefit from the government activities but will have the chance to air their views on matters that will affect them. Otherwise, few people will continue to participate and the majority of the nation’s citizens will remain blind and deaf.

Finally, the second goal calls for recognition of the principles of the equality of rights and duties of married partners, and for responsible parenthood to be based on that equality. As observed in many societies, marriages today are not stable. There is no trust, cooperation and enjoyment in many of the families. Many families are divorcing, and in the process innocent children are displaced, some dying of hunger and others deprived of their right to an education – resulting in them roaming the streets and preying on other people. This is a total indication that there is no equality and rights practiced in the family. Family is the backbone of any development. Thus government has to stabilize family first before any other development takes place. Otherwise, PNG will remain stagnant in terms of development.

It is clear the government has done very little since Independence to achieve Equality and Participation in PNG. The government has to start at the family level, to provide the basic services that enable all people to participate in and contribute to development. Then and only then will the development of Papua New Guinea go forward in a way that benefits all citizens.




MANUS Provincial Government is finding new ways to bring essential agriculture extension services to its people, to compensate for the national government’s blind eye to this critical service.

The provincial government teamed up with the PNG Cocoa Coconut Institute Limited (PNG CCIL) for a project that aims to train women to increase the value of the local copra industry.

Copra has been the backbone of Manus’ economy for the past 100 years, providing the main means for the island’s population to pay for children’s education, health, transport and essential needs.

But in recent times, the copra world market price has deteriorated. Coupled with changing climactic conditions, the inflated cost of goods and a growing population, it is clear enhanced agricultural techniques are needed. But the National Government has largely abandoned agricultural extension services to rural areas.

Recognising this, the Manus virgin coconut oil project trains local women in coconut downstream processing. Women learn how to produce quality coconut virgin oil, using traditional Manus methods updated with new knowledge and techniques.

While the virgin oil is the primary product, value-adding processes can be used to create charcoal, soap, feed meal and bakery products. Importantly, women are encouraged to bring their knowledge back to other members of their community.

The project was piloted in the Sapolau ward of the Lele Masih Bupi Chupeu LLG in Manus Province. It is hoped the project will be extended to other areas, and eventually the oil will be sold in stores.

The partners agreed women should be at the forefront of the project.

“In Manus women play an important role in food production, feeding and caring for the family but remain suppressed and neglected as in other parts of the country,” project leader Kanah Pouru said.

“Women are the most productive work force of the country and efforts must be made to legitimize their involvement and their representation in decision making and resource sharing.”

Pouru said the PNG CCIL teamed up with the Manus Provincial Government to fill the hole in agriculture extension services caused by lack of National Government funding. They said government neglect of these services had a major impact on PNG’s mainly rural population.

“Agriculture is the mainstay of 86% of PNG’s population and contributes significantly to their food security and cash income,” Pouru said. “To keep abreast with the changing times they need to know how to use new and improved agricultural technologies and information that is generated by research institutions.

“With all the challenges facing our farmers, provision of extension services is more vital than ever.”

By Claire

Development is a big word. It essentially depends on who is selling and who’s buying the idea of ‘development’.

Most of us have bought what the ‘the others’ define as development: going to formal school; getting a degree or masters or whatever paper it is that says you are qualified enough to have an opinion that is worth getting paid for on a particular subject; the acquiring a job where what you get paid is more than what you need, so you can buy what you DON’T need to show others who care about the same petty things. Fast flashy cars, big houses, designer clothes, latest electronic gadgets etc.

There was a time in my life where I cared and sought for all those petty things.  The clothes, the hair, the shoes, the nails, the bags, the phones, the movies and all those things that Marie Claire, Hello!, Elle, Blackbeat, Dolly and Girlfriend told me were ‘must haves for this season’ (seriously, ‘seasons’ in tropical Papua New Guinea?!) Jeez! I cringe whenever I have a conversation about childhood dreams with my cousins (we’re Bougainvillian), who compared to me were so practical, noble and unselfish. Although I’m glad I went through that cringe-worthy phase.

I was in the midst of all the pettiness that ‘the others’ perceive as modern/developed/cool. So many words to describe something so plastic and SO fragile that all you need is a week back in a place where your survival depends on what you do and then, you realize what a façade all those so-called important things are.

At the end of the day what we want most out of life is to be happy! Happiness is that ever-elusive kudo, that nirvana, the heaven that we all strive for. AND the truth is ‘the must haves for this season’, the iPhones, the ‘skinnies’, the Nikes, the ‘bling’ do not make up this ‘happiness’.

Happiness and Development. Supposedly synonymous states. Both are states that we allude to and want to obtain, we want to be happy and we want to be developed.

I can honestly say that I witnessed both these states co-existing in perfect tropical bliss on these two tiny island nations called Fiji and the Cook Islands.

Viti Levu. From one end of the island to other the things that ‘the others’ allude to when they speak of development: education, health services, law and order; these things can all be found from Nadi to Suva. Furthermore the capital of Fiji (Suva) has, in my opinion, the perfect mix of modern convenience and traditional lifestyle.

Rarontonga. Breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful! The stuff that all tropical island getaway dreams are made of. You know, the white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, swaying coconut palms and clean quaint yards with their neatly arranged neighbourhoods. Perfectly planned towns and all citizens taken care of.

At first I carried myself like a true Mosbi (Port Moresby) person. I watched my back, held onto my bag tightly, made note of who bumped me and was ever vigilant to make sure no-one took a swipe at my bilum. After a few hours it hit me that no one looked like they were protectively hugging their bags and lo and behold! There were no fences!

Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m naïve, but in my opinion happiness is something you feel when you are doing what you should; when ou should; for who you should at the moments they matter.

Happiness isn’t consistent – that isn’t humanly possible. People you care about die, people you care about hurt you, people you care about move away, people you care about don’t care about you. But if you remember your sadness and pain more clearly than your happiness surely that must mean the happiness happens often enough for it not to be memorable unlike the sadness.

I’ve digressed. Back to the point. Happiness and Development. I saw both of these in Viti Levu and Rarotonga. The thing about happiness and being able to enjoy modern conveniences, functioning government services (health, law and justice, education) AND having extra money to spend is that you don’t NEED mining projects, or plantations, or agricultural projects, logging or anything that is alien to our culture to achieve this. Development if it means all these mining projects, plantations, agricultural projects and logging will not bring happiness. Maybe it’s time we stopped buying ‘DEVELOPMENT’ and start making Progress – doing it OUR way.

Then we might remember that we ARE happy without these big mining projects, plantations, agricultural projects, logging and other alien million dollar operations. Those alien operations don’t equate to happiness but doing what should be done, at the correct moment, with and to the correct people does bring that ever-elusive kudo, that nirvana, closer and produces varying degrees of happiness.

Via UVA Today:

“Being Arapesh is there, but hidden or in the background. I would like to be able to take off this modern mask. It would be a big deal to me to connect these different worlds.”

Most of the people who spoke Arapesh when University of Virginia linguist Lise Dobrin conducted field work in Papua New Guinea about 15 years ago have died of old age. Their children no longer speak the language, and their grandchildren have almost no knowledge of their ancestral tongue, she said.

But Arapesh has a chance to live on through a digital archive Dobrin has created with the help of U.Va.’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities and an emerging collaboration with some middle-aged and younger Arapesh.

Dobrin, an assistant professor of linguistics in the College of Arts & Sciences’anthropology department, began the archive in 2005 and is focusing on it this year with support from the institute’s residential fellowship. The “Arapesh Grammar and Digital Language Archive” also has support from the Documenting Endangered Languages program, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation.

Papua New Guinea, half of a Pacific island and slightly larger than California, lies north of Australia. One of the most culturally diverse countries on Earth, it is home to more than 800 languages, none of which traditionally was written down.

What is lost when a language falls into silence? A treasure trove of cultural information that has been passed down from generation to generation, Dobrin said. Endangered languages have properties only the speakers know, such as classifications of the natural world, for example.

In addition, there is a lot to learn from diverse systems of oral expression. Dobrin first went to Papua New Guinea in 1997 to study the system of noun categorization of Arapesh for her University of Chicago dissertation. Despite all of the strides in research, scientists and scholars still only partly understand language, she said.

From 1998 to ’99 in the village of Wautogik on the northern coast, she recorded Arapesh conversations to document speech patterns. She used a portable analog stereo cassette recorder and lavalier microphones to record villagers telling stories, talking about how they did things in everyday life, such as gardening, and describing events like First Communion. The fledgling Internet was of no use to her then.

Many Arapesh villagers today use Papua New Guinea’s lingua franca, Tok Pisin, as their medium of communication in daily life. Tok Pisin comes from the English “talk pidgin,” pidgin being the term for communication developed between people with different languages. English is taught in schools.

Since the 16th century, several European nations have occupied parts of New Guinea; the eastern half gained independence from Australia in 1975. As in other developing countries, younger Arapesh have moved to cities, become educated and stayed to work, sending money home to the rest of the family. And thus, Arapesh has become endangered in four generations.

Dobrin’s work is also getting the people themselves involved. “Many Papua New Guineans are now global citizens, but they want to learn their ethnicity,” she said. When a group of urban Arapesh who use Facebook stumbled upon the Arapesh archive, they reached out to Dobrin, saying, in effect, “Can you help us learn our language?”

Last month, Dobrin brought together a dozen people to discuss the best ways to make Arapesh, and possibly other endangered languages, available online to the tech-savvy generation and to connect far-flung villagers to one another. Worthy Martin and Daniel Pitti, co-directors of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, and a few other professors and graduate students working on other language projects, met here. Emmanuel Narokobi, an Arapesh man, participated from Papua New Guinea via Skype.

Narokobi, who has an information technology business, said he is eager to relearn his Arapesh language.

“Being Arapesh is there, but hidden or in the background. I would like to be able to take off this modern mask,” he said. “It would be a big deal to me to connect these different worlds.”

In a country of 6 million, the technological device spreading most quickly seems to be the mobile phone, Narokobi said. The number of cell-phone users has surpassed 2 million, but that still leaves twice as many people without them. Even fewer have access to the Internet on a computer.

Dobrin is working with Narokobi and other urban Arapesh to determine what information would be most useful to them. The community-based addition to this research and the effort to “mobilize the materials” is part of a trend in linguistics, she said, to expand the preservation of endangered languages with information and materials that communities want.

“I feel like I’m holding this treasure – their culture – in a safe for them,” Dobrin said. Although the challenges are steep, she has begun a long-term reciprocity with the Arapesh to help preserve their way of life, enabling them to re-draw a sense of identity without limiting their ability to live in the modern world.

*You can access the Arapesh Grammar & Digital Language Archive here.

“We must not be afraid to make a detour from wayward ways and go back to the past that the National Goals and Directive Principles of our Constitution prescribe for us”

“The constitutional fathers dreamt that one day we would be free. We worked very hard to look at the needs and the aspirations of the totality of the highly diversified – culturally, linguistically, even religiously – people of Papua New Guinea. And we tried to come up with something that would form them to become a great people with a great vision and motivate them to take the necessary steps to become activators of change and development, not mere passive recipients of goods and services.

It is sad that we have leaders of this country who are, for their own political and selfish ends, prepared to sacrifice the collective good of the people of Papua New Guinea. Using political parties … as vehicles of convenience to get into power, to manipulate and exploit the people of this country.

We have been marginalised.  And we are marginalised because a number of our leaders have been bribed.

And that is why young people today must unite and be educated with those universal, perennial values that are very important for any nation. We must not be afraid to make a detour from wayward ways and go back to the past that the National Goals and Directive Principles of our Constitution prescribe for us.

We have some hope of reversing the situation that is fast developing this country with detrimental consequences of making Papua New Guineans totally dependent on government hand-outs and so on. PNG I believe now stands at the threshold of a new order. But we have a great mission to liberate and empower our people not only objects of development, but subjects of development as well. We must be the agents of change. We must not be prepared to be told ‘yu no can askim plenti question.’

But we have many problems, because when you try to redirect a warship that is set on a course, it is not easy. But it does not give us the excuse not to try.

I think that the National Goals and Directive Principles are still very relevant. And if all of us tried to implement (the vision) enshrined in the National Goals and Directive Principles, Papua New Guinea would be a better place.

National sovereignty and self-reliance are very, very important. National sovereignty calls on leaders not to sell their people’s rights. Not to allow this country to be ripped up and raped by foreign investors. National sovereignty calls on leaders to reject bribery. National sovereignty calls on leaders not to use public funding to make investments overseas while their constituents are barely making enough money to buy medicine, school fees, and so on.

Self-reliance means embarking on a massive program of empowering people to get involved in small scale socio-economic activities. Activities that would take into full account the Melanesian way.

We are communal peoples. Social relationships, interdependence, to us is very, very important. We don’t want to marginalise people. We don’t want to compete and destroy one another. We want to collaborate, we want to form interdependence. Interdependence: we are all leaders. We depend on one another.

Good leaders must be servants. Good leaders must be educated enough to appreciate the values of human dignity, the right of each citizen to participate, the right of each citizen to have a say, the right to have a voice. We are all equals. Good leaders should not have the license because of their position to make policies and decisions that are detrimental to the common good.

In my view, every province in Papua New Guinea should be given greater autonomy. Giving autonomy to Madang, for example, doesn’t mean Madang would want to secede – nogat. Giving autonomy means you are now structurally forcing this highly centralised and bureaucratised government in Port Moresby to give the people of Madang their due. The sources of revenue, sources of employment, sources of information should be decentralised. The national government should not usurp the role of the provincial governments.

If you look at the natural resources that are being destroyed and are being developed today, what are the tangible results of the exploitation of the people’s resources? In 1974, PNG leadership was talking about a need for sustainable development. For ecological balance. Preserving our rainforests and only using what we need, and not destroying the beautiful rainforest and the seas we have.

As active agents of change, we can create an educated, intelligent, just society for PNG. Out of the many combinations of tribes and languages we can create a very good country with all its differences, and create an independent spirit right throughout the nation.”

To watch short films featuring John Momis  discussing writing the Constitution, click here and here.

To watch a video about the National Goals and Directive Principles, click here.

FRIDAY May 4th is Media Freedom Day in Papua New Guinea and Divine Word University in Madang is all set for the day.

But why is media freedom so important?

Throughout history individuals and groups of people have been struggling to keep or take back their freedoms. Many of these freedoms were lost under oppression by an economic system that cares less about freedom and humanity.

Media freedom is about protecting the the rights of media to tell the truth about this economic system that is hurting the masses across the world. It is the gatekeeper of all other freedoms.

UNESCO’s Adviser for Communication and Information Programme in Asia, Susanne Ornager, says from Bangkok: “Freedom of expression is a fundamental right stated by UNESCO and a right which all people in the world should treasure.” Yet every year journalists are being attacked, harassed, forced to shut up, denied publication of their reports or even murdered as they strive to tell of the injustices around the world. Papua New Guinea and other Pacific Island journalists have also come face to face with the gun.

But the need to know is there and some people have to do the job of finding out and telling without fear or favour.

For every year since 1999, the Divine Word University’s Communication Arts Department has been observing Media Freedom Day. This year they’re witnessing how social media and the internet is making space for free speech and expression, and how a street vendor (Martyn Namorong, a keynote speaker) is using internet to help change the development debate in Papua New Guinea.

A few questions niggled in the back of my mind a few days ago after a long discussion with friends. We talked about the expectations that the Papua New Guinea education system embeds in our minds.

After more than 30 years since our colonisers (supposedly) relinquished direct control over our affairs, our education system – their education system – continues to perpetuate engrained notions that are far from reality. Those notions are reinforced by our families. We teach our children to study for an academic qualification in order to get a job and to support ourselves. Many of us have not – and probably never will – come to the realistion that the education system prepares us to work for a production system instead of taking control of the means of production.

Every year, the government talks about the high rate of unemployment. “There aren’t enough jobs out there for young people coming out of university,” they say. It is because we are educated to believe in the illusion that our young people will somehow be absorbed into a ‘job market’. It doesn’t teach us that we can create jobs for ourselves.

Nor does it teach us to have pride in working on the land to make a living. Hence a young man or woman is considered a ‘success’ if she leaves home to work for a commercial company. No matter that they work much harder and make much less money (see this video if you don’t believe it) – they are considered more successful than that buai seller (that buai entrepreneur) by the road, who’s making twice as much, and is able to stay close to his community and his values.

Have we really sat down to think about who it was that designed our education system? Do we realise that this system was designed by people from another culture who don’t own land? Sure, it taught us to read and write and speak a foreign language that we use to converse with other people around the world. But does the education system teach us who we are? Does it teach us our strengths as a people? Does the education system teach us the value of land (i.e land, sea, air, bush etc) in the context that we own resources and are in a position of power?

Why do we listen to those who tell us that the ‘wantok system’ can’t be integrated into business? Why do you think a Chinese businessman will buy from one of his own? Isn’t that the ‘wantok system’? When will we take stock of our many strengths and realise that along with land, that we own, the traditional structures that we use to pay for bride price and funerals can also be used to pool financial resources needed to start businesses? When will we realise that we can create, on OUR own land, environments where everybody from children to adults have an income without having to work for someone else?

* PNG Constitution National Goal 1, ‘Integral Human Development’: WE ACCORDINGLY CALL FOR education to be based on mutual respect and dialogue, and to promote awareness of our human potential and motivation to achieve our National Goals through self-reliant effort.

AusAid Got it Wrong

Posted: February 16, 2012 in Education

Despite what smooth talking diplomats  say in public gatherings,  I have always argued that  Australia’s involvement in Papua New Guinea   only serves their  purpose.    Call it a conspiracy theory   or  whatever you wish but Australian involvement in “strengthening”  functions of the  PNG government   are a key destabilizing factor.

On paper,  Papua New Guinea is Australia’s largest aid recipient.  We “get” over 300 million Australian dollars  a year.  But much of that money does not actually help improve the lives of ordinary Papua New Guineans.

An  AidWatch document [2] published in 2005 reports that    AusAid staff stated,  off record,  that up to 90 percent of  Australian aid money boomerangs back to  Australia.   In  other words, the Australian government   creates the illusion that it is giving money to support its former colony when in fact,  much of the aid dollars are channeled to  consultants  in companies like ACIL, Coffey, JTA and individual consultants.

In July, media reports in Australia and Papua New Guinea revealed  how AusAid consultants  like Geofry Elvy   and others were being paid  between AUD350, 000 and   AUD900 thousand dollars  for advising the Papua New Guinea Government.

While AusAid  puts on a  public relations spin    that it is helping to “build capacity” of poorly skilled Papua New Guineans,  many of those   who have to  work with  Australian advisors  find  very little need for them.

One senior provincial health official expressed that  funding supposedly given to  support health  goes to   pay  for a  consultant  as well as   a parallel system of medicine delivery  separate from the government’s area medical stores.  So  how does that translate into functional strengthening   and capacity building?

In rural health centers,   community health workers have come to depend on AusAid medicine kits  supplied by a contractor. It makes you wonder   what Australia’s real intentions are?  It is to create a dependence on aid so that Australian consultants continue to have a job?  Or is it something greater?

Senior PNG health officials have also pointed out that  health professionals like  specialist doctors are  being poached by  Australian consulting firms  who have  established  donor funded programs  that  provide advice to   the very health system  they  are starving of medical experts.

The education sector,  is another example of  the Australian government’s     interference in the affairs of Papua New Guinea.    Papua New Guineans who  attended primary school prior to the education reforms in 1993 will testify that  the quality of education was arguably better   in the preceding years.  Following  the AusAid supported curriculum reforms,    the PNG   government introduced  the outcome based education (OBE)  system upon   advice from Australian consultants  working for the AusAid’s Curriculum Reform Implementation Program (CRIP).      Aaron Hayes,  an experienced high school science teacher and a qualified school psychologist who  served in the Standards wing of the Department of Education, says [2]  “To my knowledge none of these consultants had ever taught in a PNG school before. Most of them had never even been to PNG before. Many of them were from Queensland where OBE was introduced in the 1990s and they brought this curriculum model with them.”

So what is OBE? It is a  system  that requires teachers to  prepare self learning  activities  for different students  with different ability levels  in each class.    Teachers in urban schools   have long expressed that OBE is an   added burden  to an already stretched education system.    It is suited to a country like Australia  where class sizes are smaller and  where there are adequate resources and teacher aides.   So why did we agree to have it implemented?

Aaron Hayes goes on to say:  “Most of our PNG curriculum officers had not even heard of OBE before, so they did not feel confident to question it or challenge it at the planning meetings in the late 1990s.

“They just nodded their heads and went along with it because they did not want to look stupid by opening their mouths, as we say here in PNG, and they assumed that the CRIP consultants were experts who knew what they were doing.”

Teacher training   is another example of  a dual system  pushed by AusAid consultants. The reforms  brought about an elementary school system that spurred an  increase of  pupils.  While I agree with  universal education, I do not agree with the manner in which its implementation was dictated to us first by the World Bank  and then by AusAid.

Although development partners do not engage in direct policy formulation in Papua New Guinea, the policies and forms of assistance  they provide have the potential to drive policy formulation. The World Bank…in the mid 1990s, was prepared to support only development projects that targeted universal basic education and would not entertain forms of assistance at the tertiary level of education. [3]

The current  teacher  training colleges and the University of Goroka (UOG)   takes  in students from secondary schools.     UOG  offers a four year bachelors degree  in teaching while  teacher’s colleges  offer a two year diploma in teaching.   Elementary school teachers  however,  are   drawn from the vast pool of grade 6, 8 and 10 leavers.  They were put  through  six weeks of  intensive “teacher”  training  and then sent out to teach six and seven year olds.   It  makes a lot of thinking parents wonder if  their children are getting sound education from  former school leavers  – many of whom have   poor reading, writing and numeracy skills.   Was Australian Aid money intended  to create this parallel  teacher training system that ultimately destroys the capacity  future university graduates?

Lecturers in Papua New Guinea’s universities  are now  reaping the seeds of a donor driven education reform  that began more than 10 years ago.   Johnson Kalu, [4] who presented a research discussion paper earlier this year at the University of PNG, highlighted that  students enter   university from secondary schools with a problem of applying the correct English skills.  And they often fail their courses because of poor reading and comprehension skills.

Several education experts and teachers,   point out that the problem stems from the reform dictated,  language bridging process  that happens in  second grade. This is when students who were taught in vernacular or Tok Pisin (by poorly trained elementary teachers) start learning the English language.

Personally, I think  we have  done our children a great disservice  by heeding to a donor driven model of development.    We have allowed our systems  to be weakened  by foreign aid donors like the World Bank and AusAid who apply a textbook template  to a very complex country with its own special needs.

The crusty old teacher with more than 30 years  under his belt sits on his hauswin and reaches for a buai. He is engaged in a serious conversation  abouteducation standards in the Oro Province. “I’m talking about standards that have declined,”  he emphasizes in impeccable English.  I didn’t say declining. They have declined. John Somboba  is a veteran educationist is known by former students for his  boundless energy and legendary temper. But those who know him also know that Somboba has always demanded the best from his students  and gets very anger when the best isn’t forthcoming. In more recent  years, his ire has been directed at  Oro’s  provincial education division and its political leaders.   He has good reason to be angry.  In 2011,  only one student from the entire province went on to a  higher education institution based on  merit.   It’s a shocking statistic. “Its not because  Oro students,  aren’t intelligent,” Somboba says. The academic results  produced by the students  are a reflection of the disarray  within the provincial education  division.   For  10  years, the standards  and measurements  section   that is responsible for appraisals and   the monitoring teacher performance has been  relatively inactive.   Schools have not been inspected. Teachers have not been appraised. This has a direct impact on motivation and education standards. Another   senior teacher points out that younger  teachers who are serious about building a  career  have very little hope of  being promoted  in the Oro Province because  their work  isn’t  evaluated by an inspector. “There’s a lack of direction by the  education management,” he says. Others point out  that those  at the helm now, don’t have the management and planning skills  required  to tackle the   myriad of  problems affecting  education in the province. There  appears to be  a faint glimmer of hope.  One year into his new job, Charles Soso, the man  now responsible for  standards and monitoring  has  brought in four new inspectors.  In 2011, with  limited funds, he was able to conduct inspections on at least 120 of Oro’s 300 plus  primary schools.  But he knows  that’s not good enough. Soso  also believes  that  the  changes  in teaching methods and content,  as per  PNG’s   education reforms   aren’t being implemented. “The teaching methods are  different from the days  when we were growing up,”  he says.  “There’s a knowledge gap.” He also believes that what is taught in some schools isn’t consistent with  what students are being tested in national exams.  However,  senior educationplanners like Soso don’t really know the extent  of the problems   because of    the lack of  reliable  information. Another  long serving teacher says  the poor reading and writing skills exhibited by  grade 9 and 10 students,  is a  direct result of  the elementary school syetem.  Teachers for the elementary school system  don’t attend  the normal teacher training colleges.  They are instead put through a 6-weeks training course and then sent back to their communities to work. “How can you expect a grade 10 leaver who didn’t do well in school to lay a solid foundation for the education of a child?” asks Carson Gandari, a 35-year veteran  of the teaching service. In a the classes he teaches, students have difficulty reading,  writing and understanding  the English language.  Poor language skills affects their ability to  perform well in almost  every other subject. Gandari is on of the many who has  seen education standards plummet to  near hopeless  standards.  As a teacher, he has helped to mold bureaucrats, politicians, journalists  and doctors.  For this teacher, poor education standards affects his pride and the pride of his province. “I can’t do that anymore and I hang my head in shame. When the last of our teachers and the last of our doctors are gone,  we  will have to import people from outside to run this province.”