The National, Tuesday February 4th, 2014
THE Government’s announcement this week that it will release K200 million in state subsidies for education in public schools is welcome news.
State-run schools in the country cater for around three-quarters of the student population from elementary to Grade 12 and the majority of those schools are in rural areas.
Of course church schools contribute significantly to the education of the country’s young generation and they too are expected to benefit from Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s policy of greater government funding in education from elementary and primary to high school and secondary levels.
Private schools, most of which are located in the major urban areas like Port Moresby and Lae, will not receive any funding because they fall outside the government’s scope.
This has always been the case however, one would find the situation a little strange when many parliamentarians and well-to-do Papua New Guineans prefer to send their children to private schools.
Obviously the policy is there specifically to alleviate the hardship many parents face in trying to put their children through school and ultimately secure their futures.
In making the announcement, Finance Minister James Marape stressed that accountability and transparency would be crucial in schools getting their share of the subsidy.
He advised schools that had already received funding from similar subsidies over the past three years to acquit for more than K600 million already given out.
“I have been placing calls on all recipients of government funds to acquit. Likewise all head masters of schools must prepare their acquittals,” Marape said. “All schools must now send in their acquittals by March 31 to receive their second tranche.”
He said the government was aware that simply helping to pay schools fees would not be enough to ensure every child had access to quality education. Teachers leave fares and other entitlements, school capacity problems were areas that needed immediate attention.
He should have added that a lack of infrastructure, equipment and proper basic training facilities, regular teacher training and in-service and assessment were some of the perennial problems.
Marape said the government’s commitment to addressing these issues was real and said they would be done this year. That is highly doubtful, that the education sector can be fixed in the space of 12 months or even 12 years.
The education sector like health, law and order and other important components of a democratic, civil society depends largely on the priority that governments place on them. That is how much money, effort and time should education be given for it to produce the results expected and needed.
A well-educated society almost always results in an improved standard of living.
A small portion of the adult population is in formal or semi formal employment. Some 300,000 people earn and cater for a population in excess of seven million. That ratio is untenable if PNG hopes to make the break from a third world developing nation to the next tier of progress.
Education is vital in freeing up the human resource, the real engine for growth. Having an abundance of natural resources and land will not liberate the population.
After 38 years of independence PNG is very much still struggling to develop its human potential.
Education, quality, sustainable and progressive education is the key. Subsidies are great at easing the problems from year to year but for the next generation to have any chance of improving on this generation’s efforts they must be given access to the best tools, methods and knowledge.