Education Minister James Marape is mulling the idea of asking the Government to create a fund where a portion of the revenue from the liquefied natural gas (LNG) project can be parked purely for education.
Mr Marape is planning to bring a submission to Cabinet to make this a reality in the coming months.
Details of this proposal are being worked on by his advisers and top education officials at this stage.
The reason for this? Mr Marape says the Government’s annual allocation on education over the years since Independence has been negligible.
Education experts say it accounts for between 3% and 5% of the country’s gross domestic product.
“Our human resource is very valuable.
“Any amount of money we put into developing this resource is an investment that will reap benefits for the country, now and in future,” Mr Marape told a gathering on his return from the 167th national education board meeting in Manus last week.
But if governments over the years have known and held this view, it was not reflected in the annual budget for education.
At the close of this meeting, Mr Marape issued a statement admitting to this.
He said one failure in education was the Government because it did not provide enough education opportunities for the children of this country to further their education.
He said students who did not get a space to further their education must not be branded as failures because the fault was with the Government for not providing enough space for the children in educational institutions.
Put simply, the Government had not allocated enough to this very important sector to upgrade and build more classrooms, to adequately train more teachers, to build more staff houses and facilities at schools, to build more dormitories and science laboratories and libraries, and improve facilities like providing internet services.
Education authorities have complained, year in year out, that not enough was being done to match the annual enrolment growth.
Our schools are being stretched to breaking point.
No one can expect a child to fully concentrate and grasp lessons taught in a classroom if the room is overcrowded.
Nearly all schools have reported students to teacher ratio over and above the accepted limit since the start of this school year. In many schools in the country, classes were conducted under trees because of lack of classroom space.
We cannot expect to reap results from our education system if we pour in very little resource. We are indeed doing injustice to our children by not adequately preparing them for the future.
With the LNG project now kicking off, its enormous benefits will transform the nation.
We are at a pivotal time in our nation’s history, and Mr Marape has a huge task ahead of him to turn things around for the better.
The LNG project has a projected life span of 30 years. It is a non-renewable resource, and the proceeds of this must be captured and invested in education, to develop our most valuable renewable resource, our people.
We urge the Government to support Mr Marape’s proposal.
The Australian government has volunteered to help the Government set up a sovereign wealth fund, which a portion of revenue from the LNG will be invested.
As Mr Marape has proposed, 10% of these funds should be kept specifically for education, and not accessed and used at the whims of the Government of the day, as we have experienced with the trust funds that our windfall revenue have been stashed in, but depleted without any apparent plan.
Countries like South Korea, Singapore and Japan do not have vast natural resources on land and sea as we do. But they had realised early that if they invest heavily in education, they will reap the rewards in future.
Look at where these nations are today.
We have seen a lot of our resources being harvested since Independence, but very little is there to show for.
We can make a start now, and change for the better.