PAPUA NEW GUINEA SCHOOLS FACE CLOSURE AS SUPPLIES RUN OUT

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By Peter Korugl

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 10, 2000 - The National)---Schools throughout the country have run out of essential school materials and many of them will be forced to close down, the Catholic Education Secretariat warned yesterday.

The Secretariat said that many of its schools had not received any materials since the start of the academic year and classes were already into the second term.

"I am afraid some of the schools will be shut down because they have not received their school materials. If that happens a lot of children are going to miss out on their education," National Catholic Education Secretary Arnold Wau said.

Mr. Wau said blamed the situation on a change in the system of giving subsidies in the form of school materials.

He said at their recent meeting in Port Moresby, the National Catholic Education Board had expressed concern about the change.

The Board has written a letter to the National Education Board, expressing its concern over the matter, saying the schools themselves knew best what materials they needed and not Waigani.

"Our first concern is that in providing schools with set materials, the real needs of the schools are not being met," said Mr. Wau.

"Who is the best person or groups of persons able to decide what the schools really need? And this board contends that the people responsible or the schools are the best to decide."

He said it was the board's position that the schools were worse off than in the past under the present arrangement.

"The materials basically appear to cater for chalks, exercise books and pencils. The varying needs for duplicating papers, learning resources and textbooks are not covered," he said in his letter.

Education Minister Dr. John Waiko told Parliament in the last sitting, schools in the country were having problems with materials because the supply system had been centralized in Waigani and the tender for the supply of materials was still being finalized by the Education Department.

Dr. Waiko admitted schools would have problems in term one, but they would be rectified thereafter.

In his April 11 letter, Mr. Wau said experience has shown that government departments were not able to manage a centralized scheme.

"Ever since the beginning of this year, tenders were called and actioned; then a new decision was made that called for new tenders," he said.

"As a result, schools have not received anything since the start of this year. The inefficiency will only get worse."

Mr. Wau said experience has also shown that mismanagement and corruption creeps in once a scheme like this is affected.

He said the question of the legality of the new arrangement is also being explored.

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

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