ENTRY IN THE TINGTING BILONG MI 2020 ESSAY COMPETITION
A Long Listed essay
By Jamila Kawas
From 2015 literacy report, PNG’s literacy rate is low at 63.4 per cent (Literacy Rate Remains Low, https://postcourier.com.pg, 2018, 4 of September). Books are written so that the readers get to explore the way someone else thinks, to experience a sense of reality through the eyes and mind of another person and view their perspectives. Writing is a skill that only a few people can master. People often write to express their feelings, thoughts and opinions on a particular subject, others do it as a passion or for work, or to provide information. It can be in different forms; children’s books, poetry, essays or teaching materials. Papua New Guinea has had a number of local writers mostly politicians; their autobiography, about life experiences and other things, and academics. But today many people write books for many different reasons and what we could do as a nation to promote literacy is to read these books. The PNG government should buy PNG authored books for a variety of reasons, of which several will be discussed in this paper.
Firstly, local authors write books because they have lived and are familiar with a certain culture, a field of study, or our economy with its people and resources. If the government buys these books for school and public libraries, their experiences and insights would be shared with fellow citizens. For example; you may have read a book or a short story in a magazine about Sir Paulias Matane; of his childhood in the village, the different countries that he has travelled to around the world, or of the challenges he faced and overcame throughout his political courier. Because you have read these books, his experiences and thoughts are shared with you. And these experiences may not be only of cultural or economical surroundings, but could be of personal, religious, political, academic, social, historical and all different things that exists in life. And as Papua New Guineans, the stories that these writers tell coming from their different backgrounds would be more relatable to us. We need to read books of our own authors to learn of and keep our culture and traditions alive in the midst of globalisation and Western influence as it is our identity. One of our own PNG authors, Caroline Evari stated in an article by Alphonse Bariasi, dated 5th of July 2019, that our culture will soon disappear and that we need to know the importance of preserving our languages, traditional values and our cultural heritage for the next generations to come.(www.thenational.com)
Promoting and encouraging authoring in PNG
Secondly, since our nation is advancing we should encourage our authors to produce more books; if the government buys their books it will show appreciation and support towards their work and efforts, when we buy and read these books we are promoting writing and their work. The stories that these authors tell are of their life experiences and they want to share it with others to inspire, guide, give their readers a hope in life or simply to tell their personal stories. Some share the journey of their lives; of where and how they grew up, how they faced the struggles in life, or sometimes it’s of those who have survived tortures and brutality, others write poetry, essays, textbooks, research reports and other informative documents in their field of expertise. Reading about these things makes people aware of the kind of society we are living in and the happenings that are taking place around us every day. And one is better than none—at least a single person reading the book is better than nobody at all because their story is shared with someone other than themselves. As previously mentioned, PNG authored books would be more relatable to us as we all come from a common background and share the same origin.
Enhancing and aspiring the young minds
Furthermore, the PNG government should buy PNG authored books because; it might help to encourage the young generation to read more books and engage themselves in academic writing and using it as a weapon to express themselves, participate more freely in open discussions and having their voices be heard. The young generation of this century are born into a technology-driven world (PNG included), where almost anything and everything can be done mechanically and electronically. That may be a good thing but electronics (mobile phones, tablets, TVs and so on) are pulling at the minds of young children; giving access to internet, social media and other such networks that may or may not be good for them. For instance; a disadvantage of the social media is that the posts and text messages that people write are shortened or abbreviated—as in BTW stands for ‘by the way’—, and these types of code words or slangs and colloquialisms minimizes and contracts their vocabulary resulting in grammatical and spelling errors in their writing in school. Although students are taught in English in school, some still speak broken English. This is because of how they spell and write their SMS and other text which are sometimes in ‘tok pisin’ (Pidgin), this is from personal experience and observation. Local author Caroline Evari had had this idea and said that, ‘a lot of students today are spending more time on their phones than in reading books’. She also said, and I quote, “As a result, there is less interest in reading or writing and I see that the literature level is decreasing. If you go on social media such as Facebook, you will find a lot of grammatical errors, this itself is a reflection on the country’s literature”. (BARIASI, Alphonse http://www.thenational.com, dated 5th of July, 2019)
There are lots of reading books and textbooks in libraries, but in order to motivate young children to read books, they should be introduced to PNG authored books. These young people need role models with a common lifestyle as theirs to look up to and be aspired, someone they share a relation with, someone who had experienced their struggles in education, someone who has been in their shoes. And only our ‘wantoks’ (fellow countrymen/women) can be their stronghold being that we share a culture. Some of us want to read books by our own local authors but we cannot afford it, thus, the government buying them for the people enables us to read and share their books.
In conclusion, the PNG government should buy PNG authored books for the reasons stated in the body of this paper. For the authors to share their experiences and journeys, cultures and knowledge. The other reason to promote and encourage authoring in PNG should be seriously considered as it relates to the national literacy rate in PNG. For the last reason, to enhance and aspire young minds is so that today’s young technology-influenced generation can learn something from their fellow countrymen and women and to be inspired. Therefore, in my opinion, the PNG government should replace school libraries with books by local authors. All schools starting from elementary up to the universities and other tertiary institutions recognised by the national government. Individuals and business houses should consider sponsoring competitions such as this to help get young children and adults to engage themselves and part take in writing to promote literacy amongst our folks. The pathway to achieve more and greater things is to work together. With little step by step acts as such, we can better develop our nation.
About the essayist
Jamila is of East Sepik parentage and her home town is Port Moresby. She is 20 years old and 2020 was her first year attending the PNG University of Technology in the Bachelor of Business Studies program.