The National, Monday February 15th, 2016
IT is indeed rare to see Papua New Guinean children reading good story books these days.
Fairy tales and adventure stories, which were the most sought-after school literature in years gone by, are now a thing of the past and more like ancient history.
Since the advent of smart phones and tablets most school children in this country have turned their backs on the values of reading.
Instead of reading a good story book in their leisure hours, they are busy playing with these high-tech toys.
Most children, especially in the cities and towns, would rather communicate with their friends via Facebook or listen to rap and hip hop music on their smart phones than spend quality time reading and learning to write proper English.
Parents could easily blame the mobile phone companies for making smart phones accessible to their children but that would be blaming someone else for their failures to provide proper parental counselling and guidance.
Whether parents like it or not, smart phones and tablets will be around for a long time and are merely part of the modern lifestyle that we have adopted.
After all, Papua New Guinea is part of the global community and technological advances in communication, such as mobile phones and computers, are part of the winds of change that are blowing the world over.
Parents who can afford these high-tech toys must choose between what is good for their children’s future and what is not so
Buying or not buying your child a smart phone, tablet or laptop computer is a parental decision that bears all kinds of consequences. Parents will either gain the benefits or suffer the consequences of their decision.
If well-to-do parents choose to shower their children with expensive toys such as smart phones, tablets and laptop computers, then it is wise for them to also provide counselling on their proper use.
Children should be made well aware of the good and bad effects of these gadgets, just like drugs, alcohol and sex education.
No doubt, responsible parents will ensure that their children use smart phones and computers in ways that will benefit them by expanding their general knowledge to enhance their education.
More importantly, parents should and must ensure that their children spend more time reading books, both fiction and non-fiction, which remain the basis of our education curriculum.
It goes without saying that high tech gadgets will never replace books in the education of our children, at least not for a long time in Papua New Guinea.
The older generation has grown up reading books and should fully understand that books are invaluable in education and personal development.
That same understanding should be extended to the next generation who face even greater challenges with the advent of science and technology.
The start of the school year is always a timely reminder of the value of reading as children start or resume their formal education process.
It is encouraging to see schools that promote the virtues and values of reading books through drama and other fun activities throughout the year.
As a prominent educationist said recently, hard decisions have to be made to buy books for schools in Papua New Guinea.
He urged our political leaders to use some of their District Services Improvement Programme (DSIP) funds to buy books for schools in their electorates.
Whether any of them have taken heed of his advice remains to be seen.
One of our regular contributors to the Letters-to-the-Editor page criticised a certain provincial government last week for allocating K1 million to buying school uniforms for all schools in the province.
He said the money would be better spent on books to expand the knowledge of school children.
We couldn’t agree more.
PNG is blessed with abundant natural resources but its human resource is the key to future growth and prosperity.
Without a well-educated and skilled population, our nation will not be able to cope with the rapid global changes that are taking place in science, technology, commerce and trade.
It is imperative that our children receive good education from the start and books must be an essential part of that.