Burning of schools a blight on society

Editorial, Normal

The National, Thursday May 28th, 2015

 THE education sector in Ma­dang, like elsewhere in Papua New Guinea, is struggling with significant resource and manpower constraints.

In some respects the pro­vince could actually be fall­ing way behind and its indicators are much worse than many others.  

And the recent destruction of buildings at two of its high schools only adds to the province’s education woes and sets back any progress made.

Places at grade 10 and 12 institutions are desperately limited, a fact lamented at the closure of the last school year by the provincial education manager, who was anticipating a crisis at the start of 2015. Many more grade eight and ten graduates became eligible for grades nine and 11 than there were places at the province’s existing lower and upper secondary schools. 

Many of those graduates have been denied learning opportunities in the public system because there just wasn’t room for them at secondary schools. Some may have sought alternative pathways to further education or job training while others returned home to subsistence living.

It is therefore quite a privilege to get a place at the province’s high schools.  

However, while most students value this opportunity and wish to make the best of it, some of the privileged few have gone to school with other plans in mind, turning instead into thugs and criminals on campus. Midway into this school year and two high schools in the province, Aiome and Holy Spirit, have reportedly suffered the loss of vital infrastructure, not to any natural catastrophe but shameful student behaviour. 

Earlier this month students attending Aiome High School in Middle Ramu burnt down school buildings and ransacked school property following a fight between two groups.  

Last weekend, another school fight at Bogia’s Holy Spirit High School resulted in a dormitory being burnt to the ground and innocent students losing their property. The destruction of buildings, especially at Aiome and Holy Spirit high schools, is a shame and shows a total lack of respect for what the Anglican and Catholic churches have invested in those communities.

The students responsible and those outsiders  from surrounding communities who were involved in the wanton destruction of infrastructure at those schools should be made to bear the full cost of rebuilding.  

Until the establishment of Aiome High School by the Anglican Church, Middle Ramu district had no high school for the Simbai and Ramu River population. All eligible students were sent to school in other parts of the province.  It was therefore a great relief when the Anglican Church eventually established the school.  

Because of its extreme is­olation the school has had its share of logistical and staffing constraints for years but has managed nonetheless to turn out a good number of continuing students to secondary schools in the province.

Part of that hard work was literally burnt to ashes this month by some callous students who should not have set foot on campus at all.

That destruction was totally uncalled for. There is no place anywhere for the violence demonstrated by students at the two high schools – in another higher educational institution, work­place and back in village communities.

Inter-group rivalry among students in those high schools has grown into a dangerous level today, resulting in the destruction of school property. This evil has to be stamped out for good. A rough measure of a province’s success in education is the number of its students at the country’s tertiary institutions. Madang has seen a respectable number of those for some years but that number has become stagnant or is dwindling. 

A more far-reaching impact of a good basic education with appropriate social skills is its impact on indivi­duals and what positive con­­­tributions they make to  communities.  Burning down school buildings is never going to improve either of those indicators.  

The province may not have the resources or the political will to invest heavily in education now but what it has must not be squandered by young people who are expected to be most appreciative of it. 

Comparing provincial ach­ievements in education, Enga has run away from the pack, while a few others are slowly gaining on it. Madang, however, has taken a few backward steps after some progress.