Reject tough postings: ASOPA lecturers
Roscoe proposes but Gunther disposes

PNG 1958: Goodbye Bill; Hello Geoff

1958 was a volatile year in PNG Education. Bill Groves, Director of Education since the end of the war, departed, with Territories’ Minister Paul Hasluck’s imprecations ringing in his ears. Groves' really never overcame his earlier association with former Administrator JK ‘Kanaka Jack’ Murray, a Labor appointee despised by the Menzies Government. Nothing Groves did ever satisfied Canberra.

Geoff Roscoe, in the Territory since 1947, took over from Groves – and, while he seemed to interest Hasluck in his ideas, Roscoe's Port Moresby peers were far from impressed by his tactics in circumventing them. But ’58 was the year when a choice had to be made between universal primary education and a greater concentration on secondary schooling – and Roscoe came down in favour of the former. A critical decision. All in all, 1958 was arguably a vintage year, except perhaps for those involved.

January. ‘Considerable Advances in Education, Minister Claims’. Paul Hasluck says since 1949, pupils in Administration schools have increased from 2,670 to 13,841. [South Pacific Post]

February. “The short answer [to why the Education Department was not achieving] was the administrative incapacity of Groves.” [Paul Hasluck in his book ‘A Time For Building’]

February. “Due to retire from here in August of this year, and looking back over the twelve years I have spent here in sheer hard work against many difficulties and frustrations immediately after the war, I feel that we have no reason to be satisfied with what we have managed to accomplish. In any case I am pretty certain that the powers-that-be at Ministerial level at Canberra do not think that we have accomplished anything like what they had expected.” [Personal letter from WC Groves to FH Gwilliam]

May. ‘Failure in Education’. “We educate natives in the belief the bent pen nib is mightier than the shovel - turn them out after grade 4 believing the bent nib is the key to the cargo. They are spurning labour because they have advanced beyond it.” [South Pacific Post]

July. ‘Russia Claims Trusteeship Council Under an Illusion’. “The Russian delegate, Mr Lovanov says there has been no progress in education in the Territory over the past few years.” [South Pacific Post]

August. ‘Hasluck Contradicts Himself’. “In his budget notes released recently, Hasluck announces that steady progress has been made by the Department of Education within recent years. This is in direct contradiction to statements he has made over recent years to the Administration. Mr Hasluck was bitingly critical of the Department of Education’s progress at a Canberra meeting this year. He criticizes the Department’s senior officers for lack of initiative and planning.” [South Pacific Post]

September. ‘New Director Gives Aims in Education’. Hasluck appoints GT [Geoffrey Thomas] Roscoe Director of Education. Roscoe: “While secondary schools are necessary, our principle aim should be to educate all those children who want to be educated. That means the emphasis must be placed on primary education”. [South Pacific Post]

Hasluck on Roscoe’s appointment. “In 1958 Groves reached retiring age. It was decided to advertise widely in the hope of obtaining an outstanding man as his successor. The response was more numerous than exciting. The committee appointed to interview the final panel of applicants found two who were better than the others but was divided in preference between them and enthusiastic about neither. I received no firm recommendation. I decided to appoint the most senior man already in the service, GT Roscoe, partly on the ground that none of the others was ‘so far superior as to warrant the passing over of a man already in the service’, but largely because Roscoe only had two years to run before retirement and this would give us another chance to find an outstanding man... What I had seen personally of Roscoe also impressed me. He was a school-teacher and was aware that the work of an Education Department had something to do with getting more and better schools and teachers.” [Paul Hasluck in his book ‘A Time For Building’]

Roscoe on Roscoe’s appointment. “Of course I was too old. They all said that. I was 58 when Bill retired and it left me only two years to go before retirement. Groves had recommended against my appointment. Groves was always against the man he had. The man that hadn’t come up yet, he was better than the one he’d got. And the Secretary of Territories had recommended against my appointment.” [The handling of Roscoe’s appointment as Director of Education was a fiasco.] “I had no warning [that I was to be appointed]. The morning I got to know, there was a call on the telephone from the news announcer at 9PA and he said, ‘Mr. Roscoe, I have the news here. Have you been informed that you have been appointed the Director of Education?’ ‘No.’ ‘I suspected it would be something like that. I didn’t want it going over the news without you knowing. Well I’m telling you now.’” [Letter from GT Roscoe to Loch Blatchford, 27 April 1982]

More: See ‘The Blatchford Collection 1958 ’in ASOPA PEOPLE EXTRA


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