PORT MORESBY – The other day Papua New Guinea prime minister James Marape offered the children – and adults – of our country some true words of wisdom.
They were true for the time when he was growing up. They were true for the time when his parents were poor but proud.
What the prime minister extolled in his message, however, is followed today by very few parents and their children.
In the image accompanying the article, a kid is shown dragging some bags behind him as he looks for empty bottles and discarded cans.
Today, this boy is not there to look for his school fees but is part of a hand to mouth economy where, if he brings nothing home, a couple of mouths are not going to have anything to eat.
So for today’s PNG, the photo is misleading.
You only have to try to park or reverse a car in downtown Port Moreby to see the number of children who have never gone to school but are busy keeping traffic lookout for a few meagre toea.
Toea that may pay for an evening flour ball to eat.
We need better intervention in the way our people live - and hope that the Marape government can achieve this.
In rural areas, where books are non-existent inside or outside school, life is no better.
When a former Grade 12 graduate student says he is 'wenting to the stua', you know straight off he never read a book in all his school life.
Our people need to read books, and books about their own country and its history and prospects - not one-sided literature brought from overseas because it’s expendable.
Some time ago the eminent Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote that we too in Papua New Guinea have a story, a literature.
We certainly do. More than 800 languages, an impressive oral tradition mow slowly, agonisingly transitioning into what we hope will be a rich literature.
I hope James Marape can reflect on the value of his own education and the value of the books he was exposed to then to ensure that he leaves behind him the same legacy for our school children – and adult readers – today.
Our own stories by our own people in our own words.