Thursday, September 17, 2009



Rita now lives in one of the squatter settlements surrounding Kiunga town. While she lives in a settlement her life is not as bad as other people in the same settlement, as her husband and herself are both formally employed and they rake in up to K600 ( Au$243.06 , US$207.60) between them each fortnight. It can be said they are doing as well as can be expected of an average Papua New Guinean family. The unfortunate thing is, they could be doing better than this if only they had had some self discipline in their earlier life at the Seventh Day Adventist Sopas Nursing college.

After completing year 12 in 1996 at Rosary secondary school in the Simbu Province, Rita got a placing at Vunapope St. Mary’s Nursing college Rabaul, on full NATSCHOL sponsorship. However, something went terribly wrong and by the beginning of the new year there was no travel warrant sent to her. After enquiring with both the Office of Higher Education scholarship branch and the Vunapope Nursing College the following were discovered:

· Vunapope Nursing college had decided to award most of its spaces to East New Britain students, so many other students in PNG who qualified, like Rita, were dropped from the list.

· OHE could not give a travel warrant to Rita as she had no placing at Vunapope Nursing college. However, OHE promised that they would give her a placing at a nursing college the next year.

So the devastated Rita spent a year in the village with her parents.

In January 1998 Rita enrolled in the diploma program at the Sopas nursing college as a self-sponsored student, as OHE did not provide scholarship. The whole family contributed for fees that year.

The first year went without incident, but Rita did not make the required GPA set by OHE to attract any sponsorship. It fell upon here brother who was a primary school teacher to find the money for her second year fees. He did that with a loan from the TISA Savings and Loans Society.

Rita’s teacher brother came home to the village one weekend in June 1999 and found Rita in the company of a young man who was a stranger to him.

He soon found out that both of them had been expelled from Sopas as Rita was two months pregnant, and it was beginning to show. It was a blow to the teacher and the family who tried hard to get Rita educated from primary school to a tertiary level. As it was, there was nothing to be done. The teacher asked for a refund of the remaining fees, and from the two thousand plus fees he had paid, he was given back K127.28, with the college citing lots of things they had to deduct money for, including unreturned books by Rita and her man.

The teacher then gave them part of his land to cultivate for food and handed over his two coffee blocks to them. They were told to make money by selling the coffee as well as raising funds by marketing to pay for their air tickets to Kiunga. After two years in the village, the two and their daughter, flew to Kiunga where they now live.

Had they exercised a little bit of self-discipline they would have better paid jobs as nurses in one of the hospitals or health centers in PNG. They would then have the chance to go on to do their degrees in nursing.

They were in a nursing school and all forms of family planning methods would have been available to them. One finds it hard to believe that they could not use any of them, if they wanted to have premarital sex.

As it is they seem alright now, but what will happen after OK Tedi ceases operations? Will they still have their jobs.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

For a measly K6000 a life turned useless

Yer is his name.

Yer is a tall handsome 20 year old Simbu lad. He completed his year 12 at the Kerowagi Secondary school in the Simbu province at he end of 2008.

A few weeks into the Christmas vacation an offer of a place at the University of Vudal arrives. There is great joy and celebration among the family, as one of them has won a placing at University, a result every rural parent looks forward to for all her/his children.

But hang on, there is a catch! The Ministry and Office of Higher Education Science and Technology is unable to offer a sponsorship as Yer's Grade Point Average (GPS) is 0.1 point below their requirement at 2.4, and they require 2.5 or above . The parents find that they have to come up with all the tuition, board and lodging, and travel to and from the University of Vudal, a total just over K7000.00 (US $2400, Au$1800).

Well, the parents while at first taken aback, are not daunted. They dig up there meager K1200 savings over the last three years, and go looking and asking among their relatives, friends and 'wantoks' in the hope of raising the remaining K6000. Yer, their son goes to the Simbu Provicial Administrator for assistance, as he is a family friend.

At the end of three weeks, just before the University of Vudal opens its academic year, they have raised just K300, bringing the total to K1500 - only 22% of the total requirement.

So while many of his school and class mates fly off to their new tertiary institutions, young Yer with all his dreams and ambitions goes bush. He left his family home, telling his parents not to look for him or to even think of him. The parents suspect he is living with his uncles in another part of the Simbu Province, but they have respected his need to be alone by not looking for him. They have not seen or heard from their fist born for nine months now. They are working hard to save enough to send him on in the coming year. But will they have enough by the time Vudal opens for 2010?

Is Yer's case a rare one for families in Rural Papua New Guinea, I ask?

Why are only a few people in PNG 'filthy rich' while the bulk or masses struggle to make ends meet?

Where is legal justice?

Where is natural justice?