Free Education: an analogy

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Walk for Life participants at the Freeway

On the 15 of May, I took part in the  NCD Walk for Life. The walk every Saturday morning, is an initiative by  the NCD Governor to promote healthy living in the city. During the walk, the Governor also talks with his constituents. The walk normally starts at 4:30am from the Jack Pidik Park and ends at Ela Beach at 6:00am.

That morning, the walk was in conjunction with The Leniata Legacy. The Leniata Legacy is a NGO working to  end violence against women in PNG.

I was the volunteer photographer for the Leniata Legacy that morning. Despite being so unfit, I eventually completed the 8km walk.

At the end of the walk,  free buses was provided for people to return to their suburbs.  While waiting, I took a few pictures of people trying  to get a space on the bus.

It was a mad, mad rush to get on the bus. There was no proper procedure to mount the bus, it was indeed survival of the fittest.

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Free Bus for dropoff

The strong and ruthless managed to get seats while the  less aggressive stood at the edges, dejected – most were women and girls.

While majority were squeezing through the door, handful were climbing through the windows. These window climbers were either getting a leg-up from those outside or getting pulled from those already inside.

For every person in the crammed bus, there was five more outside.

Those that were  outside had the option to wait for the return trip or catch a cab or public buses, if they had cash.

Eventually, every body did get home but for those in the bus it was at the expense of loss of personal space, sweaty and sticky bodies and an exotic mixture of body odors.

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Getting a hand from inside

While looking at images of that day,  it dawned on me how the mad scramble for the NCDC buses was so similar to the free education initiative in PNG.

Education is a big and important investment for any country because getting an education and training is how we build leadership for the future.

The free education initiative in PNG came at the back of the introduction of the Outcome Based Education (OBE). OBE had its own problems. Due to citizen campaign, OBE was eventually changed to Standard based Curriculum in 2015.

Since the free education initiative by the O’Neil Government, there has been a mad, mad rush for “free education”.

There was no preparation prior to rolling out the free education initiative hence, the number of teachers, and resources were not adjusted to address the increase in the number of students.

Stories abound of class numbers increasing from 20 to 50 and even 60 such that some students perch on whatever space they can find in the classroom.  Some students resort to sitting on the floor because the two-man desks  are occupied by four people.

Due to lack of space, some students learn under make-shift tents.

The current education system in PNG may seem fair for everyone, but without the necessary resources to cater for the increased numbers of students, only the aggressive are taking advantage of this system.

This environment has introduced a lot of corrupt practices. Because of an increased number of students but without good record systems, parents and guardians are paying bribes to get the names of their students into schools. People are also using tribal connections to push their own students into institution and this is hurting others who have the grades to go through but do not have the money and the connection.

We are setting up our society up for failure  when we  choose quantity over quality of students. Education resources are mostly based in the urban areas, Libraries, access to internet, and information. In this manner,  the rural students are automatically disadvantaged in the race to secure spaces for future education.

Urban students fare no more better than students from rural areas. Improvements in ICT has made technology a big time waster for young people. They are turning out to be a non-thinking generation. What kind of leaders are we breeding for the future?

The solution?  To provide a fair and great free bus service, the governor has to buy more big buses, train more drivers and build more better bus deports. Likewise, for a better future, our leaders must invest in more classrooms and teachers and education resources to satisfactorily train our future leaders and human resources.

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A mad scramble with no quality control.

 

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