03 NOVEMBER 2020
PORT MORESBY – During one of our meetings to prepare for our much hoped for presentation to prime minister James Marape, writer Caroline Evari’s two young children joined us.
I don’t know what they thought of their mother, Betty Wakia and I working on our letter to Mr Marape but, when they grow up, I believe they will know their mother was doing this for them and thousands of others like them in Papua New Guinea.
I have spent some months away from home working on this project to put our home-grown literature somewhere near the front and centre of our Papua New Guinean culture.
Over that time I know my family have missed me. My grandson Clinton will be three months old when I see him for the first time.
Two of my children did their Grade 12 national examinations while I have been in Port Moresby on this mission for literature.
I have reminded them that, when I did my own Form 4 final exams here in Port Moresby, my parents were way up in the mountains in their bush material home in the village.
So the next generation also sat for examinations without a parent around.
But it is worth it. So many people signed the petition to make our literature strong. We all know literature is so important for our country.
We also know 80% of the population in PNG is illiterate.
We, the literate people, are in the privileged group who have had benefited from our access to health and education services.
Imagine a child born right this second in the isolated jungle between Enga and East Sepik. There’s a place there I know, Penale.
I flew there in a chopper many years ago with then Enga premier Ned Laina.
The Penale people, who had so little, asked for a school and a health centre.
As a gift, they gave us sago. I later gave the sago to a lady from the coast to cook – and I tasted sago for the first time.
How will the children in the jungle villages feel as they sit in a classroom for the first time if a school is finally built at Penale?
Will the teacher use the internet to teach them? Will they have books to enjoy? Will the books excite them because they’re about their own country and people?
Meanwhile, here in Port Moresby, we three – Caroline, Betty and I – are struggling to tell our prime minister that literature is very important for our country.
If our approach fails, and we cannot get to see Mr Marape, we will try to find another way to meet him. Perhaps we can invite him to the 2019 Crocodile Prize presentations.
Mr Marape has attended international rugby league fixtures, the recent fashion week grand finale and other similar events. I don’t think he would decline our invitation.
But if he still didn’t come, we writers can draw some conclusions and go our own way.
This article first appeared in PNG Attitude on 10 November 2019 at https://www.pngattitude.com/2019/11/a-project-for-our-children.html.