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PNG’s literacy rate is stalling & needs urgent attention

Florence-jonduoFLORENCE JONDUO

AS Papua New Guinea’s fortieth anniversary of independence approaches so does the twentieth National Literacy Week.

With this in mind, we might turn our attention to the state of literacy in our country.

Here’s the short story – the literacy rate is increasing at a snails’ pace.

Last year’s national literacy report revealed that 23 districts in PNG have very low literacy rates, rates below 40%; which is a sad factual situation.

We have reached 40 years of political Independence and to have 23 districts with very low literacy rates is hard to believe.

From 2010 National Research Institute data, 83% of these districts are in the Highlands with Karimui-Nomane showing the lowest figure of just over 20%.

This is not a trivial matter. Education is one of the critical priorities of our country yet we have the lowest literacy rate in the Pacific.

PNG has been identified by UNESCO as one of the 35 countries in the Asia-Pacific region that require urgent attention to improve the adult literacy rate.

The eradication of illiteracy and innumeracy is not only the responsibility of the government, the education department or other authorities. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us.

Papua New Guineans who are educated have a responsibility and obligation to help families, relatives and friends who may be illiterate and innumerate.

The development of our nation is enhanced by the citizens of PNG being literate and numerate.

People need functional literacy, skills and knowledge that they can use every day to better their lives, communities and the whole country.

PNG’s literacy policy is 14 years old and needs updating to meet the 21st century.

Literacy is for everyone, it is for empowerment for a better now, tomorrow and future.

Florence Jonduo is a researcher and writer with Media Niugini Limited


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Baka Bina

Florence Jonduo - In the 1970s there used to be, in the corner of the classroom, a box called the SRA kit where there were short stories on cards and questions behind it that students could read and ask themselves questions.

There was an answer kit and you could progress your reading on a chart. Some of us had wonderful times with these boxes. There was one for reading and comprehension and another for mathematics. When the teacher was absent, these boxes came out.

Maybe you should do another survey to see how many school have these kits now.

When we have schools with no teachers, teachers with dubious teaching certificates and teachers who can't string a good sentence together, these reading kits will be a great help.

Where schools don't have libraries, the kit provide an instant library of sorts and a perfect teacher assistant
Now the TFF program has been in use for three years, how much of that is spent on buying books. None. I know one school where the headmaster makes that fund his own to spend in any manner he sees fit.

I reiterate my call that the government should make it law that 5 % of the TFF fund each year be spent on buying books - any and another 5 % of that buying locally produced books. Then they show receipts on demand each year.

Imagine the number of books a school with 80,000 TFF kina, that's K8,000 kina for books and some schools take in more than a million annually in TFF kina and that will be 100,000 TFF kina for books annually by one school alone.

If classrooms are teeming with reading materials, the students will read them. Sir Tei Abal visited our school and said he liked cleaning the kiap's toilet because that was where the newspapers were kept and he learnt his rudimentary English trying to read the papers there.

It was a reading item unfortunately it was kept in the toilet but in a school where there is no reading items, the newspaper in the toilet is good reading item.

And hey, if you have reading materials in the classroom it will be read and that is not happening, most classrooms are bare.

We have illiterate graduates na mipela tok ol save mahnmeri, bah na sem bilong mipela. Some of us that speak in public put our own intelligence to shame.

Robin Lillicrapp

A sterling example to recommend the work of PNG Attitude and the Crocodile Prize.

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