Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Education - an important road map



Education, be it parent-paid, government subsidised, free or in other forms have been on the lips of every pupil, parent and politician in recent times than ever before.

Today, there are thousands of school-aged children throughout Papua New Guinea who are not sitting is a classroom because of school fee problems.

Many parents get reminders, threats and warnings of outstanding school fees from school managements for not being up to date for childrens’ tuition fees.

Some school managements are understanding and allowed kids to continuing their learning while parents and guardians honour their commitments to pay up.

That is understandable and could have worked for parents who are able to pay the school fees.

But, the stark reality is that thousands of parents in PNG are facing this practical problem of having to find money to pay for school fees.

This is an ever increasing nightmare for most ordinary grassroots people amidst the rising cost of goods and services.

Simply put, most parents just cannot afford to keep up to date when it comes to paying school fees.

Most parents will not buy into the argument that they (parents) are fully responsible for the education of their product, as argued by some including certain politicians.

For genuine reasons to assist, some individual parliamentarians and few provincial governments have made education their priority and assisted in providing subsidies.

New Ireland Provincial Government under the leadership of Governor and former Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan and Enga Governor Peter Ipatas are two examples.

While Governors Sir Julius and Mr Ipatas have come to the aid of parents, others continue giving lip services with empty promises sending thousands of school-age kids out of classrooms.

The national broadcaster reported last week that the new Wewak MP Dr Moses Manwau has joined up with the party Mr Ipatas leads, People’s Party because of the party’s education policy.

On August 9 2010, Post-Courier reported that North Wahgi MP Benjamin Mul was “boosting education services in his electorate because he knows that education is more important than any other services and has disbursed more than K1 million to support education services alone”.

For the records, both Dr Manwau and Mr Mul were officially endorsed PNG Party candidates for their respective electorates in the 2007 general election.

 PNG Party Leader Sir Mekere Morauta was the first Prime Minister to introduce and implement the free education policy in PNG during his short term in office from July 1999 to 2002.

Sir Mekere has a proven track record of performance - free education being one of them.

Reforms his government undertook in the three short years were in five main areas: political, financial sector, economic, institutional strengthening and public sector and international relations

Worthy of noting is that when Sir Mekere was in office he shifted public expenditure concentrating on free education, and transport rehabilitation.

However, after the 2002 general election, the Somare Government did away with free education policy.

The direct results today - burden on thousands of parents in PNG faced with school fee problems.

Over the years, critics of free education have been giving the lame excuse that there is not enough money to fund free education.

However, Sir Mekere proved the critics wrong and maintains that if expenditure is controlled with wasteful spending reduced, up to K300 million can be found from with the national budget for free education in PNG.

He notes that with the school fee problems faced by parents will continue as long as the costs of goods and services keep increasing.

Sir Mekere has stated publicly that if PNG Party is in government, the free education policy of the party will be reintroduced.

In September 2000, 191 countries including Papua New Guinea signed a global commitment or agreement known as the Global Education For All (GEA) in Dakar with a goal to ensure they honor the commitments in their respective countries.

Following that, respective nations have moved to promote education for all in all aspect of learning, particularly to ensure all school aged children received at least nine years of formal education to among others give basic education to all children promote literacy standards  world-wide irrespective of gender, physical disabilities, socio-economic factors etc.

The 2000 commitment by the 191 nations was in view of the world’s education crisis including:

·        The critical global shortage of trained teachers;

·        Over 73 million children are currently out of school with more than half of them girls;

·        Half of the out of school children are in Africa;

·        Worldwide, one in every five primary age girls are not in school;

·        Globally, one in every five people are illiterate;

·        800 million adults cannot read and write, two thirds of them are women; and

·        39 million children in conflict affected States are not going to school.  

It was intended that by the year 2005, participating nations were to eliminate gender disparities in primary education and at all levels by 2015.

This means PNG, by virtue of being a signatory to this international commitment is obliged among others to:

·        Ensure that at least 20% of the national budget and 6 % GNI are allocated to education;

·        Include specific measures to reach marginalised and excluded learners such as orphans and vulnerable children, ethnic and language minorities, children with disabilities, children in internally-displaced and refugee communities and working children;

·        Introduce policies and practices to achieve gender equality in education, such as gender-sensitive curricula, ensuring an adequate number of females teachers, making schools safe and hygienic for girls and giving stipends for girls;

·        Abolish all fees charges in PNG; and

·        Include specific measures to improve quality of education such as ensuring that all children are taught in class no bigger than 40 by a professionally-trained teacher spending at least 25% of recurrent budgets on non-salary inputs such as teaching and learning materials and enshrining the rights to nine years of education in national law. 

Education is accepted world-wide as a very important roadmap that cannot be simply ignored.

Because of its importance, the global leaders, together with PNG included it as goal Number Two in the United Nations Millennium Summit Declaration, commonly known now as the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

The MDG commits PNG and the other 190 other nations to achieve universal primary education by Year 2015.

This means in five years time, PNG together with the other 190 countries would hope to have children everywhere complete a full course of primary schooling.

PNG, through the Somare Government is lagging behind and how it will ensure PNG fulfils its international commitments in achieving universal education for all remains to be seen.


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