Favourite titles

Favourite titles
Whether it is "Redefining literary techniques and devices", "Justifying Papua New Guinea Literature", or "Translating the Bible into Anuki", these offer valuable reading for the paperless student of literature, and indeed the best sort of literary entertainment you can get out of Papua New Guinea. Check them out either on Soaba's Storyboard or The Anuki Country Press.

Friday, 11 June 2010

The alienation of children through a poor education system

A child’s inalienable right to human existence and full development both physically and mentally is best protected by an education system that is faultless and incorruptible.

A child safely reared and nurtured by such an education system grows up to lead – in nation building, preservation of culture and national identity, and respect for human values.

Man is born free, runs the very first clause of every declaration of human rights document throughout the world, and as such he is free to exist without any form of hindrance to the course of his development from a child to an adult.

Those inalienable rights, properly implemented and executed, give every child in our case the liberty to exist, to eat, to grow, to speak, to think and to write.

A crime in all this is committed when an education department, being the main mentor of its country’s young, unwittingly and in most instances unconsciously denies its own children of such inalienable rights.

For the best model of how a free Papua New Guinean child should grow up, consult the children’s literary magazine produced weekly by the National Newspaper called “Young Life.” Now there you have an example of a plausible curriculum development unit in action. That little magazine represents the voices and opinions of our young people destined to become the best educated and good citizens of our country.

What is most disheartening, however, is that you don’t find this kind of vision, mission, objective and sense of dedication in our very own curriculum development unit of the Education Department.

Scan through the list of all the text books being distributed nationwide at Primary School level, and what do you find? An assortment of course text books full of expatriate titles, expatriate authors and expatriate publishers.

A Papua New Guinean child undertaking 8 years of primary education in that type of environment grows up thinking and behaving like a foreigner. Ask him what a myth or legend is and he will mechanically cite bits and pieces from Harry Porter or Lord of the Rings. He will not know what a myth or legend is and what it truly sets out to serve in a predominantly communal and moral setting like ours.

That child must be given every opportunity to know himself and his surroundings through literature. In the end and if he lives in the National Capital District, for example, he will know that Boroko is a Koitabu word for a certain variety of the eucalyptus tree, that Ela Beach is traditionally known as Era, that Koki is spelt correctly as Koke, and that Tubuserea is indeed Tubu Sene.

Sadly, however, the publications our children are exposed to are those that were done by clever expatriate businessmen, not writers, who have manipulated, indoctrinated, mesmerised and misled even the best of our qualified and experienced educators within the Education Department itself into buying them. Every year truckloads and shiploads of books are bought and transported by the Education Department from one part of the country to the other. But in those books lie the heart and soul of a clever businessman who is in a hurry to make the fast buck, all at the expense of a heavily taxed low-income earning Papua New Guinean whose child it is that is being alienated all the more in his own country.

There are then no Papua New Guinean authors represented in these batches of publications. If there are, they are merely local business partners – partners in the crime of publishing the wrong books for the wrong audiences altogether.

The only exception noted in the current list of texts for Primary Schools is a book of poems by one of our students in Literature. Now that book should be targeted towards the upper secondary and tertiary levels of readership and scholarly preoccupations. How it has come to be recommended for primary schools merely reflects the poverty of the Education Department’s sense of selectivity in assessing and distributing the correct text material to their appropriate level of scholarship. So here, clearly, you have an equivalent of Emily Dickinson’s existentialist and New England transcendentalist poetry being read by our primary school children!

I have yet to come across the prescribed and recommended text lists for the secondary and matriculation levels of study. But I imagine when I do I will notice that the crimes pointed out at primary school level will have been doubled at those higher levels.

Every country in the world has a reasonable looking education system in place that begins at the roots of its own cultural setting, and progresses thence to some higher achievement in academic enterprise that in turn contributes positively to world civilization as a whole. But if we begin our education system with Harry Porter, or any one of those Australian and New Zealand publishers with their boomerang authors, we are telling the rest of the world we do not have a culture of our own.

So how do we steady our poor curriculum development unit that is threatening to stumble and fall by the wayside? Firstly, the men and women working in this unit are themselves well-qualified individuals and they themselves must be made aware of this valuable asset that they possess. Secondly, we need to remind them that literature always serves as a strong foundation of learning, before any other subject of study – be it mathematics, agriculture, economics or those in the medical and pure sciences. It is through literature that language first consolidates its position as the chosen tool of instruction in education. Literature contains in it morals and ethics, norms and values – indeed, the very constituents of human conduct and behaviour. Without literature there would be no organized system of language in place for man to learn anything at all. And literature begins when one sings a lullaby to a child, when one sings hymns and psalms in church, and when one recounts one’s history through song. Thenceforth, we progress to learn: to count, to read, to write, to assess, to analyse, to recommend, and to build.

Thus, when an education department chooses to operate without literature, particularly its own national literature, it will most certainly end up producing a nation full of men and women without souls. As human beings we must not deny our children the right to grow up in a country that does have a soul.

For the PNG student of literature, I recommend Gouri Guha’s Peppery Thoughts and Leisure Rambling. Check those out today.

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