PHILIP KAI MORRE
KUNDIAWA - Youth in Papua New Guinea is a time bomb that our country is adding in its drift towards anarchy.
Even as far back as the 2011 national census, 60% of PNG’s estimated population of 7.3 million was aged under 25.
It is clear that if the PNG government does not focus on the youth population now, the future prospects of the whole country will be saturated by failure.
Few school leavers are able to find gainful employment. Many leave their villages for the towns and cities hoping to find work. There is no work for most and poverty and crime follow.
One way to solve the problem would be to recruit more personnel for the army and police force.
This way these young people would earn a living and contribute to improving the country’s law and order situation.
But with perhaps as many as six or seven million people aged under 25, it would need more than recruitment into the disciplined services to solve the unemployment problem.
Youths could also be involved in earning a living in agriculture and small and medium sized enterprises.
This is a good idea but would require planning, preparation and budgeting beyond the capacity of our country.
Partly because of the ‘youth problem’, PNG is now in the midst of a time of spiritual and moral breakdown.
The growth of secular humanism, challenges to social cohesion and the decline of cultural values and norms are accompaniments to modernisation and a society that has become material-oriented.
We also see problems related to what I term a ‘culture of death’.
These include drug addiction, gender-based violence, violence related to sanguma (witchcraft), killings related to elections and the growth of cults.
The plague of tribal warfare, especially in the Highlands, destroys life and properties and displaces people in dehumanised conditions.
They also become victims of the negative impact of digital and social media. These are other elements that promote criminal activities and antisocial behaviour.
The almost total breakdown of health services has accelerated death and long-term illness resulting from lifestyle diseases and infectious diseases like Covid and tuberculosis have become more common and more difficult to treat and manage.
Our youth is caught up in this complexity and disorientation.
They are not only confronted by these problems without solutions and an identity crisis triggered by the move from traditional to modern society but they can also find no means of escape.
The inevitable outcomes include addiction to alcohol and drugs and an explosion of crime.
The root cause of these problems lies within our society failing to deal with growth and change.
We tend to respond with our irrational thinking, misconceived attitudes and aggressive behaviour.
In seeking to define the root cause, I am led to an understanding that dealing with these problems will not transform or solve anything until we restore the human beings who create these iniquities.
Indeed, focusing on personal growth should be the aim of any problem-solving model endeavouring to reduce harm and crime.
There also needs to be an accompanying focus on addressing the ‘culture of death’.
The crimes we see in PNG are clear symptoms of a society that is sick. The helplessness felt by our youth is also a clear symptom of a society that is sick.
I believe that most of our youth know they have problems and know some of the solutions (get a job) but lack an understanding of how to give effect to the solutions.
Their problems all stem from their lives lacking meaning and purpose, and we – their kin, their leaders, their society, their government - are not helping them with what they need.
The crisis brought on by finishing school and not being able to progress further causes many young people to question who they are and what life means.
This is an identity crisis and it often undermines self-confidence. Youths don’t have trust in themselves, they feel they are worthless, inferior and without hope.
They don’t know where they going and they roam through life aimlessly.
An education system that was once viewed with great passion begins to lose its meaning for young people when they find it leads nowhere.
Our traditional values, norms, obligations, beliefs and heritage are disappearing.
The ability of families, kinships and clans to mobilise young people for work and celebration is dying out.
Today few youths go to church for spiritual and moral guidance and to learn what is wrong or right, good or bad, evil or holy.
Secular humanism has taken over from traditional spirituality and moral values, and our youths don’t seem to value themselves as human beings who have dignity.
Our youth, and our country, find themselves trapped in the web of modernity which brings inability and discontent, and seemingly lacks the leadership, understandings and resources required to escape.