Former PNG MP Laments National Literacy Statistics

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Philemon says between 2 and 3 million illiterate

By Kolopu Waima

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 11, 2012) – About 680,000 children do not go to school in Papua New Guinea, according to former Lae MP Bart Philemon.

He says this means that 50 percent of school-age children stand no chance of being able to read or write in order to effectively contribute to nation-building.

This also means that 2-3 million Papua New Guineans out of a population of more than seven million are illiterate. Mr. Philemon says that four million of the population is between 7-21 years of age (school age), according to the 2011-2012 National Population Census report. The statistics say that more than half a million of the school-age children are not in classrooms throughout PNG.

Mr. Philemon reiterated these statistics during the launch of the 10th Buk Bilong Pikinini library at Rabe village several kilometers outside Alotau, the capital of Milne Bay Province last Friday. Mr. Philemon, who is the patron for Buk Bilong Pikinini in Papua New Guinea, said PNG’s literacy rate is about 50 percent, which means that 2-3 million of the country’s population is illiterate.

"At this point in time of our independence 37 years ago, I strongly believe that we are in a serious crisis in dispensing educational services to all the school-age children in PNG," he said.

Mr. Philemon said the Universal Basic Education is one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals that PNG, together with the other UN member nations signed 12 years ago, but PNG to date has performed badly its efforts to achieve the goal and will not be able to achieve it by the 2015 deadline.

He said PNG had been described as an island of gold floating on oil which means "our country is richly blessed with many natural resources that is the envy of many other countries."

Despite these blessings, he said PNG ranked with the poorest countries of the world in terms of human development.

"Human development measures by United Nations rank us (PNG) 153 out of 187 countries. That places PNG as the 34th poorest ranking nation in the world," the former Lae MP said.

Mr. Philemon said under these circumstances, he was delighted to see that there was a charity organization such as Buk Bilong Pikinini which was stepping in to assist in a small way at this stage to help in early childhood development in the country.

The creation of Buk Bilong Pikinini fits perfectly into the larger scheme of PNG’s development goals, he said. "We know that education is a vital road map in any nation-building and it is the key to open many doors. Education is the light that enables one to find one’s way in life," Mr. Philemon said.

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