Getting to the heart of PNG enterprise
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Writing a PNG history for PNG schools

Eric Johns

When I was lecturing at Port Moresby Teachers College 1969-72 I was appalled by the lack of history and social studies resources available to teachers. It seemed especially deplorable that there was almost no readily accessible information about the history of Papua New Guinea.

PNG History Before I left PNG at the end of 1972 I started to correct this by interviewing a few historically prominent Papua New Guineans, intending to write their stories. When I retired from teaching I resumed this work, which was eventually published by Pearson/Longman as 69 stories in two volumes, PNG History Through Stories Books 1 and 2.

The books are aimed at classes below Year 10, where there is no material available for teachers or their students about PNG history. Most of the details in my books do not exist in any other single book.

A major incentive for me in writing these books was the fact that students of Papua New Guinea remain without knowledge of important, ordinary, heroic and notorious Papua New Guineans who lived during the long period before Michael Somare came to prominence. Citizens of every nation should know about their own historic heroes and villains.

The major problem with teaching PNG history in schools is the dearth of suitable texts. The history of PNG is rich and much has been written in books and journal articles but, with the exception of John Waiko, no writer has attempted to bring information together in a form suitable for school students.

So, subsequently, Pearson/Longman asked me to write a history of PNG for senior students. I am two years into writing and have probably three to go.

Waiko’s book, Papua New Guinea: a history of our times, covers the events during the post independence period and the place therein of Papua New Guineans. In great contrast, the pre-independence part of his book, while useful in a general way, lacks detail. Hence there remains a mass of fascinating information from this period in published materials yet to be made accessible to school students.

Waiko also hardly gives credit to individual Papua New Guineans in their own history. Numerous PNG individuals, and something of their place in history, are known from about the 1850s.

There is still a crying need for a more detailed book covering the period from pre-history to 1975. Until this has been written, PNG school students, and therefore PNG people in general, will be largely ignorant of the main forces and motives that shaped their nation.


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