The National General Secretary of the Papua New Guinea Teacher's Association (PNGTA), Ugwalubu Mowana, has reacted to the government promise to make education free in the country's schools, by indicating that, without proper funding, it won’t work.
In an interview given to Radio Australia's Pacific Beat on 12 December 2011, Mowana deplored the amount budgeted to provide for free education for all students in year 7 up to year 10, i.e. 1.3 million kina ($US 612,000). He said that it won’t cover basic educational costs. The Papua New Guinea’s Government further promised to spend $US 565 million to implement a new education policy.
However, Mowana emphasised that school fees are beyond the reach of many parents, meaning that more than half a million school-aged children are missing out on an education countrywide.
He stated that his union is also concerned that an increase in student numbers without additional teachers will have negative impacts on student learning, and has called for additional funding to ensure that more teachers are trained.
The union leader also expressed his concerns that free education may not mean quality education, higher enrolments leading to crowded classrooms and affecting teacher performance and learning. He said: “You need to increase significantly the number of teachers, and train them properly and provide the proper learning supports and facilities.”
Mowana estimated that “by 2018, the number of teachers needed is forecast to be around 165,000. Currently we only have 42,000 teachers practicing in the classrooms. I see no improvement happening in the next two or three years, unless the government focus changes to make sure proper attention is paid to extended and enhanced teacher training.”
EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, added: “EI welcomes the wish of the Papua New Guinea‘s Government to increase participation in education and education financing. It urges it to redouble its efforts to ensure quality trained teachers are available throughout public education.”