|Ms Joyce Pogla, course advisor of the Literature and English Communication Strand, signing on new students for the 2013 academic year.|
The number of fresh intake of literature and English communication students at the University of Papua New Guinea has fallen to the lowest since the 1980s. This was noted at the start of this year’s academic year when the university’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences met to welcome its new students in its orientation program.
There may have been a lot more candidates wishing to apply but these might not have done so due to various complications encountered at their respective schools throughout the country.
Nonetheless, the Executive Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Professor Betty Lovai, said a few good things to these new students and many would appreciate her words of wisdom.
Their new life for four years at the university, the Dean had pointed out then, would prove all the more testing. They were at a place away from home and parents, she further stressed, to become mature adults in scholarship and learning. It meant reading as much as they could not so much to digest books as books or literature as literature, as to become critical thinkers themselves. Their expertise, their diligence in scholarship and learning was what was needed to make Papua New Guinea adjust itself to the fast changing times that we live in.
An hour after the Dean’s address students of various strands within the School of Humanities and Social Sciences took leave for much more informal meetings with their lecturers and tutors. It was then that the literature and English communication staff as a strand discovered they had only seven new students present there for them to meet.
At first they were shocked. The staff outnumbered their students by more than half, it seemed.
And yet this is the largest strand within the School of Humanities and Social Sciences boasting, economically speaking that is, of managing more than a thousand students in its compulsory courses. Students from virtually all of the schools of the university come to do these compulsory courses as a necessary requirement to graduate at all after four years of study. And this year the selectors would only provide the strand with seven new students?
Over the next few weeks, however, it was discovered that literature and English, as a strand, had in fact seven non-school leavers, approximately fifteen continuing students and seventeen school leavers as its fresh intake. That balanced things out a bit, as it were.
But that should not mean the strand may now recoil to its comfort zone of the sublime and beautiful in scholarship as the issue at heart of our article here is to point in the direction of how much this strand has been ignored over the years.
To start off with, the strand has been denied a strand leader over the Christmas-New Year break. Financially speaking that would be a crucial oversight on the part of the strand’s superiors as administrators. It does not matter what measures are taken in these cost-saving exercises, so-called, as the intriguing factor noted here was that a whole strand lacked any sense of leadership at a time when all decisions pertaining to finance and expenditure across the board would mean denying that very strand any participation at all in that process of decision making.
The outcome to this was simple. For every staff member of the strand returning to duty, it became a norm and the usual knowledge that the whole school was broke, there was no money left for purchases of new equipment and staff were thus required to buy their own computers and stationery to teach at all.
The second denial noted was that none of the staff of the Literature and English Communication Strand was required to teach any of the strand’s external courses during Lahara (October 2012 to January 2013). The argument? Too much money goes to Literature and English. Let’s give the other strands a chance.
It might not be surprising to hear next that the strand itself might be shelved in preference to other service-oriented strands, whatever that may be. This is by no means an act of disrespect to the superiors by pointing out these little details here, but it strikes one as odd that Literature and English, the largest of strands within the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, would be singled out as something of an unnecessary flaw within the consciousness of a premier institution of higher learning such as UPNG.
While the number of its student population dwindles away to less than those of the 1980s the strand still retains its status as the provider of the sort of learning proved wiser in so many respects, starting from the country’s pre-Independence era. That every student that comes out of this strand does something extraordinary often in favour of humanity out there, in the free wide world.
A quick look at class distributions of students doing literature this semester reveals the following: 17 in Literary Criticism, considered the strand’s most boring course coordinated by Storyboard himself; 11 in Literature, Nation and Culture, also a Storyboard course; 57 in Literature and Politics coordinated by Dr Steven Winduo; and 3 in Special Topics of Storyboard’s and members of staff.
The strand considers Literature and Politics its heart beat that makes the university itself tick as the premier institution of higher learning within the Pacific region. In bringing a review of the course text book of this course called “Transitions and Transformations: Literature, Politics and Culture in Papua New Guinea” to appear on these pages shortly perhaps the reader will that way be given the opportunity of knowing how vital Literature and English Communication is in UPNG.
This year the strand has approximately 39 majors on record. It depends on how that number performs during the course of the four-year BA in Literature and English Communication program. The number may be less come graduation day. But even that small number should suffice in churning out what should rightly be considered the Spartans of PNG Literature.