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By Isaac Nicholas

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (October 6, 1998 - The National)--- Central Governor Ted Diro has said education has been the nation's biggest failure since Independence.

"We need to accept, with much regret, that one of our greatest failings since independence has been in education," he said.

Mr. Diro said the target set at Independence of education for all children has not been met and even more disappointing, the quality of our education has declined.

"We cannot be proud of our record, either in the Central province or the nation as a whole; we have let our children down very badly and very sadly," Mr. Diro said.

He was speaking at the Central Province Seminar on Education at Laloki High School outside here yesterday.

He said PNG must offer both present and future generations of young Papua New Guineans a much better future.

He said that was why Kairuku-Hiri MP Moi Avei and his team had put the seminar together.

"We can learn from past mistakes -- but we must develop a better future, drawing on our experiences and on the ability and the commitment of the whole education sector in our province," he said.

Mr. Diro said education must be a series of partnerships -- partnerships between the community and the governments, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and churches.

He said the greatest worry remains the under-funding of education by the National Government.

"These are tough times for the economy, and for the national budget, but it worries me greatly that the two great areas of the community need -- education and health -- are subject to funding cuts because of the economic and budget problems," Mr. Diro said.

"I want to make it clear that this is not just the fault of the National Government. The under funding of education has been a problem for years, and the failure to give education priority was even worse in the past."

Mr. Diro said it was a challenge to achieve greater cooperation between the government school sector and the church schools in developing and strengthening education.

"I am very pleased that we have involved the church and non-government school sector in this seminar," he said, adding "the more we work together, the more we achieve together."

He said that education needs massive improvement and the Central Province, spearheaded by Mr. Avei, would give trade and technical education priority that has been missing.

Mr. Diro said that since Independence, the population had grown by more than one million yet there are fewer places in trade and technical training now than in 1975.

"Two facts demonstrate just how badly we have performed in education as a nation: The fact that the growth in literacy has slowed down, and is massively short of even modest targets we set at Independence; and the fact that we offer our young people less hope, less opportunity, in trade and technical training than were offered at the end of the colonial period," he said.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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