Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Great Village

I had the rare privilege of attending an important event at the University of Papua New Guinea. First, I had the duty to be present at the official ground-breaking ceremony of the 2015 South Pacific Games Village. The construction of the Games Village at the University of Papua New Guinea brought the Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill, his fellow Ministers Hon. Peter Ipatas, Governor of Enga, and Hon. Justin Tjachenko, the Minister for Sports and Recreation. Members of the PNG Sports Federation, the South Pacific Games Organizing Committee, the UPNG staff and students, and the press made the event momentous enough to remember.

Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill officiated the groundbreaking ceremony for the SP Games Village, after expressing his irritation at the slowness in getting things moving. Though his blame was on the bureaucrats for delays, there was more to what the Prime Minister said.

The road to 2015 South Pacific Games in Port Moresby is the challenge the government, organizers, and the country have to deal with. It is not a straight road, but one that needs some sense of commitment and purpose. Nothing will happen in 2015 if the important decisions, infrastructure, and funding are not made available. The political will is to see that the 2015 South Pacific Games become a reality.

And, in that will comes great expectations. Preparations for the 2015 South Pacific Games must have a total commitment from all stakeholders. It is not only about the excellent sports men and women, but also about Papua New Guinea as a nation. The South Pacific Games will show case our people and nation, but also become the very site in which our linkages and relationships with other Pacific Islanders are affirmed and strengthened.

Other Pacific Islanders will come to enjoy our hospitality, goodwill and friendship, which they will take back with them to their own countries. In many respects the South Pacific Games will be a combination of our ancestral and spiritual mana with those of our individual talents and skills.
Prime Minister of PNG Hon. Peter O'Neill
 at the Ground Breaking Ceremony of
the 2015 South Pacific Games
Village at UPNG

During the ground-breaking ceremony for the SP Games Village I stood back to take in the development taking place at the University of Papua New Guinea. With so much space in terms of land UPNG can develop and widen its scope and capacity. The sad truth is that UPNG has not seen much infrastructure development for many years until now.

Aside from the South Pacific Games Village a new School of Law building began last year. The new School of Law building is next to the Ulli Beier centre.  The SP Games Village is build next to the School of Law building.

I spent nearly three-quarters of my life, except the years I was away for studies and work overseas in New Zealand and USA, at the University of Papua New Guinea. The place has become for me a village of some sort. Growing up in it, getting a degree, getting married, having children, and grandchildren who also see the UPNG grounds as their village, make me appreciate being part of the big UPNG village.

Seeing the Prime Minister, Ministers, and other leaders who are the finest products of this national institution of higher education return to the village to help develop it is very moving. It feels like our relatives who have gone away from us have returned to make us proud of them and to give us the new life we needed.

It is a sense of admiration for our relatives who are making us proud and who continue to bring us to the top level of society. They carry our name with pride and are the embodiments of our hopes as the elite villagers of the University of Papua New Guinea.

The South Pacific Games Village is the latest addition. There is the Tumbuna Village and the Veari Village, both struggling to maintain the condition habitable for humans. A walk through Veari Village reveals an interesting side to the accommodations at the UPNG. Veari Village and Toa Village are in serious condition for infrastructure rehabilitation. Buildings at the FCA campus and Tumbuna Village are in need of surgical repair work.

What is hard to ignore is that one of the long houses in our UPNG village was burnt down last year. It has not been cleared. The skeleton of the house still haunts those who lived in it last year. 

UPNG as a village has seen us grow into the kind of person we are today. Many of our leaders acknowledge their times as UPNG as the most important part of their lives. Many went away after graduation to contribute to nation building.

Others like me remained at the institution to localize the academic positions. The challenge was to become as good as, if not better than, our professors and lecturers before they left the University of Papua New Guinea. We became teaching fellows and library fellows before pursuing MA degree studies and PhD studies in overseas universities. That is the best possible path we had in the 1980s and 1990s. Our crop was prepared for the responsibility to maintain a university system introduced to us from the Western academic traditions. A strong academic foundation of highly trained and qualified professors, senior lecturers, lecturers, and tutors, make a university solid in its mandate to deliver what the government wants for a university.

Sometimes I think such a foundation is precisely what makes a university a solid institution of higher education.

In as much as this piece is a reflection I am also conscious of the need to acknowledge the government’s commitment to do all it can to restore the pride of UPNG. It wants to see that UPNG continues to provide quality education.

My views expressed here do not necessarily reflect any official views of UPNG in any way. These are the views, I. as someone with a long association with the University of Papua New Guinea feel I wanted to express at this time.



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