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Subject: Re: Mother Enga

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Date Posted: Wed, Aug 23 2006, 12:55:47pm
In reply to: Malipine Onotange 's message, "Re: Mother Enga" on Tue, Aug 22 2006, 12:49:26am

Fr. R. Plews Laka,
Greetings from home sweet home, PNG.
I am impressed with your well-articulated paper about the situational atmosphere in Mother Enga. I’d thought it was indeed a gut wrenching, truthful and a welcome analysis, especially from someone in the Church circle, which appeared to have been oblivious to the many social ills that are prevalent at home. Though, you made no specific reference as to categorizing the piece as a representative view from the church, I am happy that someone like yourself is contributing something useful as a private and concerned son of Enga. Many church folks have had their own reasons to stay clear from these things unlike you. I admire this from you. I can only remember reading something similar from a Bishop in Mendi about that province’s state of affairs. It’s rare so to say. Telling it like it is, takes courage and determination. It is no easy matter considering your personal disclosure in the end.

By and large, I share the same sentiments that you have expressed. I also have thrown around my fleeting thoughts here and there along those lines in this forum. Couple of those postings have well aged to qualify a space in this forum’s achieve tray. Alas. You touched on issues about genuine development in the areas of road infrastructure, health facilities, administrative accountability, jobs, telecommunications infrastructure and education amongst others. However, with regards to education, I as one of your former class mates from Anditale High School, wish to draw some parallels from our days in School and weigh them against the last ten years, the period in which the thrust of your analysis was drawn from. Here is my reaction.

Free education policy has been a political hot potato for a while and remains so. We all can agree that, that its sexiness has been too hard to resist all the piercing eyes and itchy ears. Judging from your expressed views, I find it a bit unfair on most aspects that, not only did you have a harsh view on this but qualified your views with some reasoning which I feel are not conclusive and fully satisfactory. I have my misgivings. It would be unwise for me and the readers out there if I don’t qualify why I say your view is harsh so I will take a moment to offer my perspective on the brighter side of free education - The Peter Ipatas Theory on the same.

It has become apparent that many (Engans and non-Engans alike) subscribe to that singularly dimensional view that Education is the doorway to employment alone. It’s a pity that the other broader view that, education is life itself in held in subversion. They also fail to fathom the riches of education, in the way it opens up doors and a world of opportunities for people (both rich and poor). The way Education empowers people to take charge of their lives and make informed choices is pushed to the periphery of busy lunch hour criticisms. The way it reduces the burden of disease and poverty, and gives greater voice in society is also not well understood. The global ticket education presents to young learned individuals to be equally competitive and cooperate in the global arena is misunderstood for a desk at the lifeless Ipatas Center at Wabag. They also fail to understand that education is a powerful tool that is capable to reducing tribal warfare too.

I agree that, Education is a right for everyone. Everyone is entitled to it. Yes. But, it’s a cruel irony that its costs have risen up by so much within the last ten years. Frankly it is clearly unaffordable by the greater section of the local community unlike our hay days in school (late 1980’s). Now, over to my parallels.

It is still fresh in my mind that, my subsistence farming parents from the coffee-less Londol area were able to sell a pig and come up with the K140.00 that I needed for my Grade 7 school fee. Fr. Laka, I can recall seeing you neatly dressed for the Gr 7 class whilst someone like myself could only afford only two shorts and two pair of casual shirts last lasted me the whole year. I couldn’t afford a pair of sandal. That was a luxury item. I was able to buy a bar of soap that lasted me one whole month, after I had cut the bar into four even smaller pieces and hid them carefully at a cockroach in a typical smoke filled Engan house. Ask me why? My parents couldn’t afford it. K140.00 to them was like the whole treasury at the time. I had no sibling working so financial source number two was zero for me. Comparing that hardship from that time to today’s cost of education is mind-boggling. Today’s cost of education is K1, 200.00 (not wholly paid for the Engan Provincial Government) at the same school and grade has made it look like it has become a plaything for only the affluent citizen’s children than a basic human right as we dearly ascribe to. I am not being sentimental here to solicit some comfort but expressing the obvious and realistic situation that many of our Engan parents are children are confronted with these days .

However noble and melodic education as a basic human right may sound, I am yet to see and hear one other Governor in PNG who sees like it is and gives it the consistent and unwavering support that it deserves. If none of the governors of the other resource rich provinces of PNG is doing it, no cash strapped provincial member’s meeting wouldn’t find it in their meeting agenda. Even if they do, they haven’t done it as well as Peter Ipatas. Couple have attempted it but they have been short-lived and miscalculated. I would find it hard and disappointing to stomach if the provincial government is not helping the parents with their education. After all, many Engans are already disadvantaged by the bad feeder road network in the province, which robs them of engaging in any meaningful enterprise. That would be a double blow to countless of potential Engan students who would have otherwise contribute meaningfully in the betterment of his/her community.

These things are not possible if it were not for a leader like Peter Ipatas who sees education in the right way. Not many resource rich provincial governors emulated or are able to square the achievements of this man.

Therefore, the debate that should take our time and energy is not whether Free Education Policy for Enga is good or bad but how it can be tailored and managed effectively to achieve the desired results. 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.
The educated people will find their own place in society by themselves, whether back in the province, anywhere else in PNG or any in any part of the globe. Their choice should factor economic opportunities, marketplace, personal security and other facilities. The costs incurred by the check disbursement team that goes around to instutions to deliver the school subsidies should be considered insignificant compared with other luxury holiday overseas trips taken by many PNG politicians and their compatriots.

Finally in closing, I wish to also point out that, the Engan capital is served by a modern digital telecommunication infrastructure (both telephone exchange and terrestrial link) that should bode well for now. It was commissioned in August 2003. Governor Peter Ipatas’ government co-funded the project with half a million Kina. The province-wide telecommunications network is another subject that can be looked into in the times ahead. With the new network in place, Engans are already avoiding the misery and hardships that they had been exposed to while frequently Mt-Hagen for their telephone calls over the years.


Naiepelam Tange - Upper Ambum

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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, (cant 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 someones 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 countrys 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 didnt 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 governments 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 citizens children or a deprived citizens 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 Governments 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 dont 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 cant 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 Engas 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 ones 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 peoples 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 havent 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 teams cost to be insignificant compared to luxury holiday trips abroad, I wouldnt buy that notion as insignificant by comparison. Firstly, I wouldnt 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 peoples money.

My point here, kaim, is that, that idea of considering small amounts as insignificant doesnt 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 couldnt 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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