Saturday, April 12, 2008


Morobe taps into its human resource

Morobe province today remains one of the most-populated provinces of Papua New Guinea with nine districts.

Apart from Lae, an urban district, the other eight districts – Kabwum, Tewai/Siassi, Finschhafen, Nawaeb, Huon, Markham, Bulolo and Menyamya - are in remote, far-flung rural outposts.

Many of the thousands of children in Morobe are inadequately educated, or receive no education at all.

Picture caption: A proud Morobe Governor Luther Wenge (front), Education Advisor Murika Bihoro (left) and Deputy Administrator Geoving Bilong with UPNG graduates last.Nationalpic by LUCY KAPI.
Hundreds do not complete primary education, which means that, sadly, they ultimately cannot go on to university.

The individual and societal consequences of this chronic national crisis are profound.

Children are consigned to poverty and isolation—just like their parents—never knowing what the light of learning could mean in their lives.

At the same time, the government struggles to compete in a rapidly-evolving, global information economy, hobbled by a vast and increasingly urban underclass that cannot support itself, much less contribute to the commonweal, because it lacks the tools to do so.

It is time to rethink this equation.

Given the resources that poor countries like Papua New Guinea can reasonably allocate to education—sometimes less than US$20 (K60) per year per pupil, compared to the approximately US$7500 (K22, 500) per pupil spent annually in the U.S.—even a doubled or redoubled national commitment to traditional education, augmented by external and private funding, would not get the job done.

Moreover, experience strongly suggests that an incremental increase of ‘more of the same’—building schools, hiring teachers, buying books and equipment—is a laudable but insufficient response to the problem of bringing true learning possibilities to the vast numbers of children in the developing world.

Standing still is a reliable recipe for going backward.

Any nation's most precious natural resource is its children.

Papua New Guinea can leverage this resource by tapping into the children's innate capacities to learn, share, and create on their own.

In 2003, visionary Morobe Governor Luther Wenge, Provincial Administrator Manasupe Zurenuoc and Provincial Education Advisor Murika Bihoro decided that Morobe must not be left behind in this rapidly-globalising world.

They made a landmark decision to sponsor full tuition fees for Morobe students attending major tertiary institutions like the University of PNG, University of Technology, University of Goroka, Pacific Adventist University and Don Bosco Technological Institute.

Thus was launched the Gerson/Solulu Scholarship, named after two of the province’s most-profound educationists, Michael Gerson and Joe Solulu.

Since the scholarship scheme began in 2003, the Morobe government has spent over K9.5 million, and produced over 1,000 graduates, who do not necessarily have to work for the province.

It was a proud Mr Wenge, Mr Zurenuoc (now Secretary for Provincial Affairs) and Mr Bihoro who witnessed the first lot of 34 Morobe students graduate from UPNG last Friday.

“Most of the students who get picked to come to university are children of people in rural areas, whose economic and financial base is very low,” a proud Mr Wenge told The National.

“God, in his wisdom, has given them intellectual abilities, and also, to be someone eventually, and will serve the province and the nation in whatever discipline they are trained in.

“Unfortunately, our rural people don’t have the financial capacity to sponsor their kids to these schools.

“And we, the provincial government, felt that we must help.

“It doesn’t matter whether they are poor kids or not, but we must help by providing money to get them trained.

“We are proud, and we share the sentiments of the parents, whose kids are graduating today.
“Morobe is entitled to be an intellectual community.

“We, as the provincial government, must seriously invest in our human resources for the education of our children.

“The world is changing.

“It’s becoming an intellectual world.

“We must do something to meet the challenges of the world.

“We think that education is the way.

“Since we began in 2003, we have spent K9.5 million.

“We have already produced, so far, 900 graduates, and with this year’s graduates, the number is now more than 1,000.

“We are paying 100% parental component.

“Say, for instance, if the parental component is K5, 000, we pay the full K5, 000.

“The mission we have set to achieve our intellectuals, I think we have achieved that.

“The programme will continue and we are going to sponsor a bill in Tutumang (provincial assembly) so there is a minimum funding annually for our kids to go to school.”

Mr Bihoro said: “This is the first lot of graduates of UPNG.

“It (scholarship scheme) started because the universities started charging high fees.

“We saw that there were a lot of Morobe students coming to university from Bugandi, Bumayong and Wawin (high schools) at that.

“A lot of children are from very-remote places in Morobe.

“Parents definitely cannot afford those high fees.

“Even to this day, we recognise that parents cannot afford those high fees.

“So Governor Wenge saw the need and he started discussions with Administrator Manasupe Zurenuoc and myself.

“We saw that we could help somewhere along the provincial government budget.

“Our political leaders supported it in the Tutumang with the initial allocation of K2 million.

“For the students that are graduating today, I can see that the scheme is truly helping Morobe students.

“Students from all nine districts are represented.

“Through this scheme, we are able to know how many of our children complete secondary school and go on to university.

“We also know which particular village, Local Level Government and district they are coming from.

“I think that’s the best thing that’s happened to Morobe in human resource development at that level.”

“In terms of planning for our education system, we have captured the cream and we know where it is.”

Technical education has not gone unheeded, and the Morobe provincial government’s next project, is to sponsor students attending technical and vocational schools

“Now, we are going to work on the middle part,” Mr Bihoro said.

“Next, we should concentrate on vocational and technical education, basically, to skill our middle-level children who will not go on to university.”

Mr Wenge injected:” We will be sponsoring kids to technical schools.

“We will be building more technical skills, value education between intellectual and technical students, producing mechanics, carpenters, etc.

“We are fortunate to have so many companies investing in the city of Lae and creating job opportunities.

“Our employment rate has in fact increased, so jobs are guranteed for graduates.”

mnalu@thenational.com.pg

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