Saturday, July 10, 2010

Text Books Galore in PNG Schools



Young Waigani Community School Dancer


In a show of unspoken satisfaction on the Education Department’s efforts to have sufficient learning resources provided to Papua New Guinea primary schools the Waigani Primary School was again chosen to host the launch of the 2010 Textbooks Distribution. The event was no small event considering the presence of the senior officers of the Department of Education, representatives from NCD schools namely Boreboa, Noblet, Hohola Demonstration, Wardstrip, Carr Memorial, and the Diplomatic presence of the Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Papua New Guinea Ambassador Aldo Dell’Arriccia and his Excellency the French Ambassador to Papua New Guinea.

Credit must go to the Headmaster Mr. Kala, the staff and students of the Waigani Primary School for demonstrating the leadership in setting the benchmark for facilitating national educational events such as the launching of the National 2010 Textbooks Distribution. I say this as a proud parent and keen observer of educational activities in the country. Thumbs up for Waigani Primary School.

I must also take this rare opportunity to congratulate the Delegation of the European Union for its commitment to the education of Papua New Guineans. This is the largest-ever partnership between the Government of PNG through its Department of Education and the European Union distribution of textbooks in PNG: 2.6 million volumes delivered to the schools throughout the country.

The EU-funded Education, Training and Human Resource Development Programme (ETHRDP) provides PGK 83.1 million for the supply of more than 2.6 million textbooks to schools in all provinces throughout the country. The Curriculum Development and Assessment Division (CDAD) of the National Department of Education is managing the distribution.

More than PGK1.8 million has been allocated for the distribution in National Capital District (NCD). Most of the schools have already received their textbooks.

The Provincial Departments of Education are in charged of the distribution in their respective provinces.

The Education Training and Human Resources Development Program, with a budget of 39 Million Euro (PGK137 million) is in its third year of implementation. The main areas of focus are school-based leadership and management, provision of teacher training scholarships for rural communities, textbooks and library material provision, and community participation in vocational education.

The program is firmly placed within the framework of the National Plan for Education 2005-2014 and the Integrated Community Development Policy 2007. It is closely coordinated with other development partners, particularly the AUSAID financed Education Capacity Building Program (ECBP) and the Basic Education Development Project (BEDP) the New Zealand and European Union financed PRIDE Project as well as other initiatives financed by JICA and UNFPA. The National Department of Education supervises the entire Programme under the guidance of a Programme Steering Committee.

On behalf of the Government of PNG, the Minister of Education, Honorable James Marape thanked the European Union, the France Ambassador and all other development partners for financing the purchase and distribution of books to all primary schools in the country.

“The government acknowledges and expresses its gratitude that this large Education Program will be implemented directly by the Department of Education utilizing existing government mechanism and system in the distribution and delivery of these services. This is indeed strengthening and enhancing the Government’s capacity in the operation and financial management of donor funds,” said Mr. Marape.

Mr. Marape added further, “This is indeed contributing to PNG’s overall performance in terms of implementing the aid effectiveness plan of action, as agreed upon in Kavieng in February 2008 between the Government of Papua New Guinea and Development Partners through the execution of the PNG Commitment on Aid Effectiveness, a national response to the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the 2009 Accra Agenda for Action for Action. These are both international agreements that more than one hundred Ministers, Heads of Agencies and other Senior Officials adhered and committed their countries and organizations to continue to increase efforts in aid harmonization, alignment, managing aid for results with a set of actions and indicators that can be monitored.”

I was happy that the European Union and the Education Department chose Waigani Primary School for this national event. As a public advocate for books, literature, and education I had the personal satisfaction of knowing that some of my concerns regarding the provision of teaching and learning resource materials to our schools around the country are taken on board in a practical way.

Having a school without books for children to read is not a practical idea. Children expand their knowledge through reading books. The kind of reading practice I have in mind is both reading based on the curriculum and reading done outside of the school activities, especially reading done to enhance learning skills and improve knowledge of the world.

Some of the books listed on the European Union textbooks list include books published by Pearson Educational, Oxford University Press, Niugini Crossroad, Mel Publishing House, and the Melanesian and Pacific Studies (MAPS) of UPNG. Some of the books that I want to see the children of PNG read are included on the list. The question is whether the books on the list were actually included in the books distributed to schools. I am aware that the two books published by MAPS were never reprinted or ordered for inclusion in the books that were distributed to schools around the country. They would have made great reading and inspiration for PNG students because they were written by two leading Papua New Guinean writers. I note several PNG writers on the list, but not all.

One final point to make regarding books and reading is that the books are as good as they come if they are kept in a modern library building that can stand against severe weather conditions, theft, vandalism, disrespectful individuals, overcrowding students, and poor managements. A library is the natural space for books.

I hope the European Union, other development partners, and the Department of Education will help Waigani Primary School build its first modern library to house the books and provide a reading space for children.

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