When I counted the authors, I gasped
Growing up in 60s Port Moresby

PM offers wise words. What's next?

Tingting bilong mi
The writers of PNG don't know the word 'quit'. Operating with little money they're now running a youth writing contest, Tingting Bilong Mi


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.


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Philip Kai Morre

I was fortunate that during my primary school years we still have Australians as head teachers including missionaries.

In the high schools 70 to 80 percent of the teaching staff were from Australia, British, Canada, New Zealand and USA. We were taught to communicate in English and learned from them a great deal.

Today, university and college graduates are not speaking good English and even written English is very poor.

One of the effective means to improve English is to introduce phonics in every lower school and set up libraries.

More books are needed in both primary and high schools. Education authorities must make it compulsory.

We have seen a Governor's Cup in every province for playing soccer or rugby but this is a short term benefit.

How about promoting books that will benefit our students and in turn develop our country.

Philip Fitzpatrick

You make a good point there Joe.

With few general publishers in PNG, none of whom would be likely to take on publishing PNG books, plus the reluctance of Amazon and others to ship self-published books to PNG the only really viable recourse for not only students but also general readers are eBooks.

Despite the early sceptism about eBooks they are finally settling in alongside hard copy books as a legitimate reading experience, especially among young people.

I've also noticed that their price is also increasing, which must mean that they are becoming more profitable.

Joe Herman

Kaim - Not too many "Enga elites" would be receptive to your sensible suggestion about defunding the Enga Mioks. There is an economic cost for pride and this is one of the cases.

What has happened to the Enga Children's Education Fund? Could some of the funds be used to purchase books?

An online library might be worth consideration.

With wifi access, e-library folks can install for approximately K35,000. They provide two laptops and five tablets - prices the EPG could afford.

Daniel Kumbon Jr

In most urban centres of Papua New Guinea we have very good English speaking citizens.

They have learnt how to speak from the movies they are watching and also over hearing people communicating.

However, we cannot write to a standard up to Americans or English people.

Why? In most secondary schools, we do not library enough books or most books are not accessible. If they happen to have a library the students are not allowed to borrow more than a book per week.

Furthermore, we do not have public libraries.

It is obvious the government of Papua New Guinea is forgetting literacy in PNG.

Let me just compare sports with literacy. Well both are very good things but playing rugby does not have a future, meaning to save players do not have a future like in Australia where some players can actually be employed by the football association as commentators or host in footy programs.

But that doesn't occur here in PNG.

Like my good governor of Enga Grand Chief Sir Peter Ipatas invests more money every year to just make our provincial team the EPG Enga Mioks'.

What if he build a public library or at least encourage students to read more books with provincial competition?
Just my personal thoughts.

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