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Bougainville Manifesto 15: An island education base for betterment

Tepukas Primary School, BougainvilleLEONARD FONG ROKA

BOUGAINVILLE Manifesto 14 ended by saying that the success of a Bougainville political system will depend on peaceful citizen-state relationship.

It continued: “And the citizen-state relationship must be enhanced by getting every man to firstly know his place in society; he must know his cultures and other Bougainvillean peoples’ cultures, he must know his land and environment, and he must know his region’s or country’s place in the global village.”

Bougainville, despite holding to its traditional ways of life like many other Pacific island states, is staggering through the phenomenon of globalisation. And globalisation is an uncontrolled and irresistible integration of cultures, technology, economy, politics and so on.

Globalisation has been defined by Anthony Giddens as “the intensification of worldwide social relations linking distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many thousands of miles away and vice versa.”

And Bougainvilleans, their government and whatever government that will obtain after the 2015-2020 referendum window, have no power to resist.  This is because the education system is not nurturing a Bougainville reality.

The basis of a viable education project for a stable and progressive Bougainville can be found in the words of Bougainville Manifesto 4:

Most written literature, known so far, of the pre-independent Papua New Guinea era, points out that the Solomon Island of Bougainville was the backwater in terms of development and progress. Apart from Bougainville, Papua New Guinea was progressing with cocoa-copra plantation, timber, rubber, coffee, cattle and so on as Bougainvilleans remained locked outside the doors or was an exploitation garden for planters and missionaries.

Bougainville, according to Ronald May and Mathew Spriggs (et al) in The Bougainville Crisis (1990), was a Cinderella island: “North Solomons became ‘the Cinderella district’ not because it was worst off but because it was unable to realise its potential.”

Bougainvilleans should ask: Why were we seen as or actually behaving like that in the colonial era?

Bougainville Manifesto 3 answered this by pointing out that:

One of Africa’s writers, Francis M. Deng, in his 1997 article, Ethnicity: An African Predicament, summed this crisis as: ‘Ethnicity is more than the skin color or physical characteristics, more than language, song, and dance. It is the embodiment of values, institutions and patterns of behavior, a composite whole representing a people’s historical experience, aspirations, and world view. Deprive a people of their ethnicity, their culture, and you deprive them of their sense of direction and purpose.’

Bougainville was brought to the focal point of economic, political and social development only with the discovery of the Panguna mineralisation as noted in the 1990 work, The Red and the Black: Bougainvillean Perceptions of other Papua New Guineans by Jill Nash and Eugene Ogan.

Thus when planning for a stable, progressive and participating Bougainville state or people, the focus is to get Bougainvilleans to know more about Bougainville so they can make decisions based on the reality of the people and island.

This is where the education system on the island must come into play.

In this post crisis society, as Bougainville staggers along on its political journey, education is still lagging requirements when measured against the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals that PNG is a signatory to.

Goal #2 states that all signatories should “achieve universal primary education’ for all citizens by 2015. Furthermore, the 2013 research paper, Building Peace in Bougainville: Measuring Recovery Post-Conflict by Satish Chand, says alarmingly that “one in nine children that enter Grade 1 do not make it to Year 12.”

This concern is a fruit of the lack of economic progress for the islanders due to political blindness by leaders who cannot take ownership of the few available resources.

The Bougainville education system must address the core issues in Bougainville Manifesto 7: exploitation, indoctrination and genocide.

In the light of Francis M. Deng’s ideas, Bougainvilleans are a lost people under the rule of PNG. The colonial legacy of exploitation inherited by PNG has negated the islander’s willpower and ability to innovate and advance in this modern world.

And with indoctrination, colonialism and PNG made the Bougainvilleans forget their foundations and cultures in the social, political and economic systems of the Solomon archipelago that could be the real sources of advancement orientation.

This is leading to a natural death or genocide of the unique people of the northern Solomon chain of islands.

Ceasing this genocide is a development of an education curriculum that should open the eyes of the Bougainville people to see their identity and dignity fading. They should be able to recognise and act upon the real issues affecting their sea girded island.

This curriculum should emphasise Bougainville cultural studies to enable Bougainvilleans to know more about themselves and their neighbours.

Then Bougainvilleans should learn about their geography. They should be aware of the resources in the land and sea available to them; they should understand the patterns of change and issues like global warming so their decisions and actions are practical and that they enhance sustainable development.

Bougainvilleans, furthermore, should be taught in detail their island’s prehistory so they see the changes their land experienced after the dawn of westernisation. And of course Bougainvilleans should also learn of their own recent political, economic and social history.

With this awareness, Bougainvilleans can turn to changes in the modern the world; including economics, trade, politics, technology, science, culture global conflict.

A Bougainvillean subjected to such an education process from kindergarten, through primary school, onto secondary school and finally in tertiary institution will be intellectually well-equipped to make decisions that are not harmful to the people and to Bougainville.

The a best educational principle for Bougainville was espoused in the 2009 YouTube film, The Reeds Festival, by late Bougainville film actor, William Takaku when he said: “The old leaves must fall to allow the young leaves to grow leaving their wisdom of the trunk to the young leaves to carry on the culture of the tree.”

That is, the old with the experiences of the past and the present, must nurture the young to carry on leading the island along the paths of justice and advancement.


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Leonard Roka

Robin - Deng's observation do apply to PNG and there are PNG writers that need to talk about their side of the story.

Change is unavoidable and imminent and I am only looking at my Solomon island of Bougainville experience as I see it; heard it from people, and even advocating it.

We as the Bougainville people have so many problems to deal with and a few of us try to 'think out' directions or make a few educated guesses for people to see the realities that we face so as to make new changes on our island.

Yep, Barbara did that fine for a Sepik man to think about that and work towards streamlining his homeland so that he does not lose his values.

Philip Fitzpatrick

You're probably right about western cultures, Robin.

When I look at my own bailiwick, I see the Irish culture trivialized and commercialized. It seems that a culture is worth preserving in our globalized world if a profit can be made out of it.

What passes for Celtic culture these days, Riverdance and all that crap, doesn't resemble in any way the culture that my father knew.

I can see the same thing happening to Aboriginal culture in Australia.

If you want to preserve your culture you must avoid this trap.

Robin Lillicrapp

Good read Leonard.

Do you think also that Deng's observations might also be equally applicable to PNG generally.

I'd go so far as to say that western cultures too are falling foul of the kind of rot and decay experienced in Bougainville though on another level.

There is emerging, globally, a divide betwixt cultural preservation adherents, and new-breed aficionados of the agendas of governance and business leading to a New World Order.

Barbara alluded to this recently in mentions of difficulties in the Sepik region of late.

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