The National, Wednesday November 11th, 2015
ENGA has had some great leaders but arguably none can be more successful and enduring as Governor Sir Peter Ipatas.
There were other influential politicians before him like the great orator Sir Tei Abal who was Opposition Leader in Papua New Guinea’s formative years, and Malipu Balakau that rising star whose life was snuffed out by thugs.
Sir Tei’s son, Samuel was to later follow after him and reach the pinnacle of political aspiration – to be prime minister, albeit in acting capacity.
But the former councillor from Irelya village near Wabag town has had probably the longest term as provincial governor in recent times.
His success and longevity are attributed largely to his standing education policy to enable as much as possible every Enga child – or grown-up who wants to – a chance to learn.
That the policy has borne results is all too plain for Papua New Guinea to see: Tertiary institutions today hold a large number of students from Enga origin. Many more have graduated and are working in the formal sector or successfully operating businesses of their own.
Not only has the province focused on turning out quality graduates from secondary schools for tertiary institutions elsewhere in the country or abroad but has also started to build colleges within.
Coupled with Enga’s own drive, the National Government’s tuition fee-free education has opened doors to more children to enter schools. Classrooms and teacher numbers in proportion to that increase in the student population means new infrastructure and more teachers.
Enga Teachers College was established firstly to address that need and also provide an opportunity for deserving students from other provinces to train there.
The former Seventh-Day Adventist Church-operated Sopas hospital has been turned into the Enga Nursing College.
Another higher education institution that has entered the province is the Institute of Business Studies which has been successfully operating since it opened a campus in Wabag.
The foundation of education in Enga was successfully laid down by the Lutheran, Catholic and other smaller churches who penetrated the ‘way back’ part of the country in the early years.
Today, contrary to general perceptions, Enga is truly a progressive province and that is thanks to dynamic and visionary leadership both at the political and administrative level.
Dr Samson Amean, who is at the helm of the provincial administration, has driven the vision and aspirations of the provincial government with great success.
And success attracts.
The weekend visit by one of Australia’s most influential women/politicians in Julie Bishop attests to that. Not only was she moved by the genuine openness and warmth of Enga people but was also impressed by how Australian foreign aid has been or can be used for great results.
Getting more of those aid dollars into that part of the country should not be a problem; it is whether there would be enough to go around.
As to what Enga can do with it has been proven beyond doubt.
Enga education will benefit in a big way from Australian support, the Foreign Affairs Minister said at the weekend. She announced that 10 new classrooms would be built for 10 schools, new teachers’ accommodation and ablutions blocks across Enga.
Bishop also announced 10 Australia Award Scholarships for Enga women to attend elementary teacher training.
As if to merely affirm the governor’s vision for Enga in Education, the minister said: “It is so important here for the children to get an education so that they can go on and realise their dreams, or whatever it is that they want to do in life.”
Bishop stressed the importance of bringing “better education to this magnificent part of the world” as the cool November rain started falling, as if by divine intervention.
As our reporter accompanying Bishop on the weekend trip observed, Enga was literally the last province in the country but has made significant strides since.
Heavy investment in education – spearheaded by Sir Peter – has made Enga the envy of other provinces.
Part of the success has been due to the support of the PNG government and donors such as the Australian Government who have been convinced enough to support the provincial leadership’s vision to transform Enga primarily through education.