Fr. Robert Laka (My write-up to your paper KAIM)
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Date Posted: Fri, Aug 25 2006, 04:42:49am
KAIM, My Classmate, (can’t remember who this Naiepelam Tange could be, can think of Korokane Alone, my guess would be wrong. Well, long time my Kaim)
Greetings to you also, from this side of the planet and thanks for your salutations from home sweet home, PNG.
My kaim, I am overwhelmed by your applauded reaction paper in concurrence to what I have expressed, though with your own “misgivings”, which I humbly respect. I am not going to negate any position you took to express the parallels of what I mentioned, though seemingly too harsh to be maintained to qualify my analysis. However, I wish to take it a little bit further and express the grounds I have taken on the concept of free education policy. (I express my sentiments as a son of Enga)
As being expressed that Free education policy has been a “political hot potato for a while and remains so”, it is also agreed that its context shall also remain undisputable. However it is taken depends on the context and the approaches a person is disposed at. On the contrary, however harsh my approach may be or my views not conclusive and fully satisfactory, I base my opinion on possibilities I see as a consequence of the benefits of the education being promoted rather then being subsidized as a means to someone’s end.
I agree that it had become apparent to Papua New Guineans and other countries as well that education serves as the doorway to employment alone and that IS THE NAME of the game in the global village and it is the reality. A concern and smarter leader would maintain that spending money on education is an important way of raising a country’s GNP. Education is an important consumer good on which countries elect to spend more as their GNP rises, but with proper accountability.
Education is free and therefore every individuals starting to school at certain age level and to certain educational level have certain benefits to that freedom. I agree that it becomes an irony but never a cruel one, for we cannot blame the other sectors of reality that constitutes the irony especially with the increased prices of goods and services. However, there are ways in which this paradox of reality can be relaxed to maximize its accessibility for the majority.
If we look back at our schooling days kaim, we both were the products of the situation of THAT TIME rather, OUR TIME. How harsh the conditions we faced has motivated us to aim our goals higher. Just like you, my parents too had to sell my pig to pay for my school fees as well because my other brother, nieces and nephews were all in school. I didn’t want to give lay any burden to my parents, instead I worked my own way up. If you could recall to the expatriates at Anditale during our time, I did some gardening and chopped woods for them on weekends. The K1.00 they gave my every week, I saved them. At the end of the month, I had K28.00. With that money, I supported my family as well to buy market goods so at the end; I was left with 10 to 15 kina a month, which was enough for a 13 year old guy like me in 1987, to pay the K180 for a grade 8 student. Situation was hard for you in one context, while it was hard for me in another context. Life was never a bed of roses during our time. We both found ways to survive responding to the situation in which we lived. No one lived an affluent society at that time.
Indeed, now the school fees have gone so high, leaving majority of the poor village people with nothing but depending on the “free education policy”, (a BASIC HUMAN RIGHT), which had become a name tag attached to a person for meeting an end, a double agenda, should I say. This is what I call soft blackmailing the right and dignity of a person when that freedom and right is being overlooked especially at areas where majority lives today. Free education policy must not be a state of affair that creates the dependency syndrome of the people on the government. It is the government’s prerogative to avail the accessibilities to citizens, whom they are mandated to govern through empowerment rather then making them dependent. And that is the right which must not be ignored; should it be an affluent citizen’s children or a deprived citizen’s children. I make no distinction here, for a right to education is a right to life and the right to life is a right to dignity one has.
With acknowledgement to the current Enga Provincial Government’s policy on free education, I still question the dissemination process of the subsidy. While the distribution methodology needs policing up, every year seems to be the same and the need of policing up becomes a turtle track, with the nobility of transparency being disregarded. Accountants seems to be drowned by the monitory figures in front them which, makes it quite tempting for them to round the sum up to the nearest thousand to be distributed to the schools away from the districts proper, while the rest goes somewhere unaccounted for. This fact is a squandering of public money as well.
I agree that free education provides the opportunity for Engan children to find their own places in the society, indeed they have to do, after all, they contribute to the GNP of the country. However, still I maintain my stand that, the expenses spent by the government has to be returned back to Enga in terms of serve provided by an Engan graduate to Engans. It is true that the government cannot create jobs for all Engan students, but it is also true that Enga has many investment opportunities which are attainable through consensus with the government and the student passing out from tertiary institution. At least some had to return back to the province and the government HAS to open up that possibility for the schooled citizen returning back to Enga to contribute effectively. (I imagine the difference it would make) We don’t have to think big here. The success of a person has its roots to a humble beginning. So as the government. Any small opportunities that would boast the economy of the province is being initiated. That opportunity expands in the course of time. This is a possibility; we can’t just sit and say, the government cannot create jobs. With the approximate population of 250 to 300 thousand Engans (last election census), to the number of Engans passing out from College, Enga can face the challenge of progress. A proper planning by a ‘human resource architecture” and the initiative of the government with the motivation of the educated makes it all the more attainable. This is not idealistic, this is a possibility that could be realized.
Kaim, you mentioned that, Providing employment for Enga’s many children by the Government must not and should never be the premise upon which investment in education be made. I agree that it must not be the premise, if so then it stops one’s freedom to find job anywhere. However, on the other hand, besides other factors, I foresee three things that would happen or are happening if this is argued upon.
1. Engans Children would not be able to contribute their innovative ideas in terms of service and knowledge to develop Enga, (not every places offer jobs for Engan gradates).
2. Fresh blooded gradates would not be able to work side by side with the people nearing their retirement age before replacing them; Ol lapun les long give up. The government see to it that new ideas are in progress; and
3. The amount spent by the government would never be returned back; (in reality, any amount spent by a group or individual, directly or indirectly, has to be returned back in terms of benefits either directly or indirectly [By this I mean, if my school fee is subsidized by the government, then the government uses the people’s money to do so, Thus I owe some amount to the people, which, naturally I had to pay back, not necessarily by cash but by service. In order to do that, the government provides any working environment for me to return the cost. I guess most of us haven’t thought about returning back what the government subsidized for us]). Lest we forget, the government is “by the people, of the people and for the people”. At large, the government IS THE PEOPLE.
Further more, on the point of the “check disbursement team’s cost to be insignificant compared to luxury holiday trips abroad”, I wouldn’t buy that notion as insignificant by comparison. Firstly, I wouldn’t say, others are spending huge amount so what big difference does it make to spend the few hundreds. The little that one spends makes a big difference at the end, if that amount is NOT a personal capital. Secondly, my emphasis is on the team representing Enga and not PNG as a whole. Much worse if it is taken to the national level and indeed, it is a luxury which corruption, if the trip is taken on the cost of people’s money.
My point here, kaim, is that, that idea of considering small amounts as insignificant doesn’t justify the reason of spending. It makes the other end suffer in terms of accountability first off all; the office hours and work hours suffer as well, if one has to travel all the way to Madang for instance to pay school fee, stays away from office for a week and going back the following week to collect his/her check. Such attitude slows down development and progress.
Finally, thanks for letting me know that updates of the installation of modern digital telecommunication system, although I still couldn’t connect myself properly with my aging mother in Wabag town. I could at least hear and speak clearly with the guys in Hagen in POM but Enga, the reception seems to be fading. I hope it should be okay.
I would humbly accept any comments, reactions or views in what I have shared on the wishes of mother Enga being crowned beautiful by the abundance of her sons and daughters she produced. Please correct me, if I have missed any points you wished to express in your well received paper.
Em tasol na stap gut long hap. Wanbel stap.
Kanau nambane Enga lo masipup mono ainge koweralum.
Fr. Robert Laka, (Tsikiro Tange)
Slovenia - Europe
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