Challenging month so far

Editorial, Normal

The National, Friday January 22nd, 2016

 BARELY a month has gone by in 2016 and already the certain sections of the economy and the public service are facing challenges that should bring about changes, hopefully for the good.

The oft-maligned police force has come under heavy criticism and scrutiny from all and sundry over allegations of violence, coercion and brutality perpetrated on the members of the public.

Thankfully Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has felt the need to call for the PNG Royal Police Constabulary to clean up its act once and for all.

How effectively will O’Neill be heeded remains to be seen but with 11 more months to go in the year it is safe to say the scope for the men and women in blue to earn the respect and admiration of the public is there. They just have to do their jobs ironically, to the letter of the law.

The need for swift and effective justice is in this land is crucial for the public confidence and trust in the police force. But these efforts must be seen to be genuine and legitimate.

The attack and rape of a couple who walked the Kokoda Track earlier this month was a horrendous and shameful occurrence to be sure and thankfully the law has acted at an impressive rate to capture at least some of those responsible.

One hopes that this call to duty was not just because of the glare of the media, local and international, surrounding the case, nor because of the pressure a government felt trying to maintain a positive image of the country.

The other issue that is taking precedence over this time of the year is in the education sector. 

There is growing concern mainly among parents, but no doubt among the affected students as well, that the standard which a pupil must attain in order to graduate to the tertiary level of education has risen as much as the number of students has.

The Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology Malakai Tabar  was frank and candid in his assessment of the situation that is affecting the transition from secondary schools to universities and colleges.

He attributed it simply to question of numbers. 

“Over the recent years, the number of Grade 12 graduates has been increasing at a faster rate than the number of Tertiary Education Student Assistance Scheme (TESAS) scholarships offered by the Government.”

That put simply means the state education institutions lack the capacity to accommodate the rise in student numbers. That means because of the fewer places on offer the grade point average one must attain is necessarily higher.

A simple matter of supply and demand. The problem is students are human beings and not commodities to be traded and discarded. 

But Tabar said just because a student attains the required pass mark to qualify him to the next level it did not automatically mean he or she was guaranteed assistance by the state.

The demand has outstripped the demand and even the state-run and/or funded institutions are complaining that they have reached a saturation point and cannot continue to be in a holding pattern.

The solution seems obvious enough. The state should apply the same vision and vigour to the development of the education infrastructure as it has done to sports stadia and facilities over the last three years.

If the government can spend well over a billion kina on a handful of venues in one city then surely it can through that kind of money to the education sector to address this urgent need to build up schools, colleges and other learning institutions.

If some say the costs are prohibitive they should be advised to look at from a value for money perspective.

A classroom of educated people will be more valuable to this country in the long run than three stadiums worth a several hundred million kina.

The final word must go to the Minister for Agriculture Tom Tomscoll for his attempt at levelling the market place in the import of certain vegetables into the country.

If this was, and is indeed a test case, then Tomscoll needs to find a way to carry out his “research” on how strangling the trade in onions and the like will have on the public especially the consumer in the city.

Would Tomscoll not be better served by building the capacity of the local farmer competing with the imports than a restrictive and dubious measure such as the one he has taken.

His heart is in the right place. The local gardens and farms.