Why the PNG Government Should Buy PNG-Authored Books


A Long Listed essay

By Issabelle Vilau

Literature is one of the significant indicators that can be used to measure the progress and development of a country. Literature not only teaches a country’s population to read and write, but provides an avenue for individuals to learn, grow and tell their unique stories with each other. Literature also allows people to share their experiences, develop knowledge and skills, provide information, educate and enlighten readers. It is a term derived from the Latin word, literature meaning “writing formed with letters” and it is also used to describe written and sometimes spoken material. (Esther Lombardi, 2020). Literature most often refers to imaginative creative work, such as poetry, drama, fiction, nonfiction and, in some cases, journalism and song.

This critical essay is going to discuss the notion ‘Why the ‘PNG Government should buy PNG authored books’. The PNG Vision 2050 envisioned that the country would be a Healthy, Wealthy, Safe and Fair society by 2050. Thus, the government formulated and implemented several polices to achieve these milestones. One of which is the Tuition-Fee Free Policy, which was used as a strategic approach for development, to achieve The PNG Vision 2050. The Tuition-Fee Free policy was implemented to ensure all children in the country will have access to education. However, despite the efforts of the government, the illiteracy rate in PNG remains one of the highest in the world.

An effective approach the government can use to address this issue is through literature. Literature can be described as the ‘Soul of a Nation’, because of its ability to tell stories of a thousand generations and its ability to unite people of different backgrounds, cultures, traditions, gender and race. By supporting a sustainable, home-grown PNG literature, it can have a powerful and effective influence on education, and can assist in focusing people to create a safe and progressive society. (The National, 2019). Thus, in late 2019, PNG writers, and their supporters made a petition to the government to recognise PNG literature in supporting local writers and improve the illiteracy rate in the country. This essaywill discuss the three main reasons why the government should buy PNG-authored books: to develop a reading culture in the country, promote national identity and encourage and support PNG writers to expound on their writing abilities.

The first and foremost reason for the government to buy PNG authored books is to promote and develop a culture of reading in the country. During the 2019 Annual Book Fair at the National Library in Port Moresby, a senior academic raised his concern, about the lack of interest among Papua New Guineans in developing a reading culture. The University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) Prof Steven Winduo said that the biggest problem in the country is that we have not developed a culture of reading, which raises serious concern for students’ academic progression. If students cannot develop the habit of reading, they cannot thoroughly understand the concepts taught to them, thus affecting their ability to learn. In the Post Courier 2018, Mr Winduo said, “I teach at UPNG and my students don’t write good English. I see them sitting and telling stories all day but when it comes to writing, they are very poor.” This statement by a university academic might seem dramatic, but that is the sad truth that most PNG students face as a result of lack of reading.

The lack of reading culture among student has a direct impact on their ability to learn effectively. The National Education Department 2015 literacy report states that the PNG literacy rate is low at 63.4 percent (Post Courier, September 2018). The then education secretary Dr Uke Kumbra said that the country’s literacy level is relatively low which urgently requires government intervention. The main strategy used by the government to improve literacy in PNG had been the introduction of the Tuition Fee Free Policy to educate school children from elementary to secondary. The education system of the country had seen some reform to improves its literacy rate, including the reform of the Standard Based Curriculum, infrastructure development, system strengthening and the use of information, communication technology (ICT) among others (Post Courier, 2018).

However, those reforms were ineffective in addressing the lack of reading culture in the country. For students to improve their writing they have to be good readers. As Mr Winduo puts it, “You cannot be a good writer if you cannot read: you have to complement your writing with your reading”. Students who tend to read a lot have a higher vocabulary, are better at comprehending what they have read and they possess better communication skills, such as writing. These benefits of reading provide students with important life skill to navigate interpersonal relationship, participate in programs and workplace meetings, and in writing memos and reports later on in their lives.

Therefore, it is important that the government should buy PNG authored books and distribute them to schools and universities to promote and develop a reading culture in the country. When students started reading at early age, they will have a strong intellectual foundation to build on. For PNG students, reading PNG authored books provides them with an avenue where they could effectively relate to – whether that be through the experiences, background, or culture and tradition. Young students enjoy reading about something that they are familiar with. Distributing PNG authored books to primary schools will encourage young readers to read and develop a reading culture as they grow older.

The next reason why the government should buy PNG authored books is to promote National Identify. Every country and nation has a story to tell, and these stories form the basis of how we think, behave, communicate and live our lives. Papua New Guinea is a country with such diversity, including 800 plus languages and thousands of clans and tribes. The unique diversity of the country can provide a platform for the promotion of our National Identity

Ours is a culturally diversified country, with hundreds of different customs and traditions. People from different cultures and backgrounds, often find it challenging to relate to one other and some have difficulty understanding the culturally-driven behaviours and motivations of others. Therefore, when individuals who do not understand how culture shapes behaviour of a person, they tend to misinterpret the actions, beliefs and the interaction with others. (Schall. M. J 2019). Fortunately, literature acts a medium that reflects human nature and provides a way for us to learn and relate to each other. By reading through a first-person perspective, readers can fully immerse themselves into a different mindset and figure out how individuals from different cultures and background think and feel. When PNG authored books are bought and distributed to schools, students from different cultures and background can read and better understand the different cultures around the country. Currently most books that students read are written by authors from other countries. If the government can invest in PNG Literature it will provide materials for students to read about their own country, their own people and their own stories and issues, and it will prove to be a source of national pride and national identity. (The National 2019). In essence, stories keep culture alive. They preserve culture and pass it on from one generation to another. By supporting our local authors, we help to preserve our unique culture by telling our different stories to help unite our culturally diverse country and promote our National Identity to the world.

The last important reason why the government should ‘Buy PNG-authored books” is to support PNG writers to expound on their writing abilities. When the government buys from PNG authored books, they are not just helping the writers themselves to make a living doing that they love, they are also supporting the art of writing as a whole. The support from the government for local writers will act as a platform for writers to expound on their writing skills to write more books. In the National Newspaper dated October 21, 2019 a senior academic at UPNG and an author himself expressed his frustration and concerns about writing books. He said that writers can write and publish their books, but asked who is going to read them, as most young people are not reading. Most schools and universities have outdated books in their libraries and those libraries hardly have any PNG authored books. If the government could buy PNG authored books and distribute them to schools and universities around the country, it will allow students to have access to PNG authored books. Having books in the library that students can relate to, will encourage students to develop a reading culture. When those books appeal to and capture the readers’ attention, the readers will want to read more, thus encouraging the writers to expound on their ideas and write more books.

The support from the government will not only help the existing writers to write more books, but it will also create an opportunity for students to pursue a career in literature. Right now in PNG it is considered that people who pursue careers in law, medicine, engineering, commerce and similar fields are likely to be successful in life – while people who are passionate about careers such as literature, fashion design, music, painting and other art forms are destined to be unsuccessful and have unproductive pursuits. Support from the government to develop PNG literature will help to change this existing biased trend and provide equal opportunities for individuals to pursue their careers in literature and arts, thus, encouraging new writers and readers and developing more authors to tell our unique stories to our countryman and to the rest of the world.

Literature is one of the significant indicators that can be used to measure the progress of a country as it also allows people to share their experiences, develop knowledge and skills, provide information and educate each other. The PNG Vision 2050, is a huge milestone that the country is working towards to achieve. The Tuition Fee Free Policy is one of the strategic approaches that the government is using to achieve this vision. However, the policy has been ineffective in addressing some of the issue in the education system of the country. Fortunately, one of the effective ways that can positively influence education is through supporting a sustainable home grown PNG Literature.

This essay has discussed the three main reasons why the government should buy PNG-authored books. The three reasons include: developing reading culture in the country, promoting national identity and encouraging and supporting PNG writers to expound on their writing abilities. If the PNG government can buy PNG authored books, it will encourage and promote the development of a sustainable home grown PNG literature – thus, creating an educated and a progressive society.


Coster Content 2018 ‘The importance of literature in a 21st Century, Coster Content viewed 19 January 2021 https://costercontent.co.uk/blog/writers-coner-importance-literature#

Kumbon, D 2019 ‘How literature can deliver for the country’ The National (online edition) 15 November, viewed 11th December 2020 http://www.thenational.com.pg/how-literature-can-deliver-for-the-country/

Lombardi Esther. 2020 ‘What literature can teach us’ Thought Co viewed on 19 January 2021 https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-literature-740531/

PNG Attitude, 2018 ‘PNG government alert! Our literature could help us get to Vision 50’ PNG Attitude, viewed 5 January 2021 http://typepad.com/asopa_people/2018/02/does-govt-know-png-literature-could-help-us-to-vision-50.html.

Post Courier, 2018 ‘Literature rate remains low’ Post Courier 4 September viewed on 24 December https://www.google.com/amp/s/postcorier.com.pg/literacyrateremainslow/amp/

Schall M. Janine ‘Exploring cultural identity through literature’ Worlds of Words 12 February 2020 viewed on 24 December 2020 https://wowlit.org/on-line-publications/stories/storiesiv6/6/

The National, 2019 ‘Reading culture lacking’ The National 21 October, viewed 24 December 2021, https://www.thenational.com.pg/reading-culture-lacking/

Wayang, L 2017 ‘PNG authors face production issues’ Post Courier (online edition) 24 June, viewed on 11 December 2020 http://www.postcourier.com.pg/png-authors-face-production-issue/

About the essayist

My name is Issabelle Vilau, I am 23 years old, I come from a mixed parentage of East New Britain, Eastern Highlands, Morobe and Jiwaka provinces. I was born on October 30th 1997, in Mt Hagen General Hospital in Western Highlands Province and raised in Eastern Highlands Province. I grew up in a family of seven children and my identical twin sister and I are the last born of the family.

After completing High School, I was fortunate enough to be given a space in the University of Papua New Guinea to peruse my tertiary education. I undertook Business Management studies in UPNG, majoring in Public Policy Management and minoring in Political Science from 2017 to 2020. Thus, I am expected to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management in April 2021.

Being born and raised in the highlands region of PNG, I had the opportunity to travel most parts of the region. The frequent travel to both urban and rural areas of the region, prompted me in perusing a career in public service. Seeing and experiencing the lack of government services to the rural areas has motivated me to peruse my education in Public Policy Management. Which will enable me to work in the public sector to develop strategies and policies to effectively deliver government services to the rural population. My specific area of interest is in Public Health, as I believe that a healthy individual can peruse their education exceptionally, creating a healthy and effective workforce and thus contribute to the country’s economic growth, and political and social development.

I am currently, unemployed because of the slow response, by companies and organisations, due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. However, I am interested in perusing a career with non-government organisations, that have branches in rural areas and prioritise Public Health, for instance; the OK Tedi Foundations, Care International and Save the Children. I am also interest in working with government departments, provincial governments and local level governments.    

I enjoy writing since primary school, but my interest really developed through my high school days. I had excellent Language and Literature, teachers who constantly gave writing assessments and have always assisted me in creating good writing piece. Thus, helping me to develop my skill of writing, which had proven to be beneficial in my educational career and other formal and informal settings.

Published by Ples Singsing

Ples Singsing is envisioned to be a new platform for Papua Niuginian expressions of creativity, ingenuity and originality in art and culture. We deliberately highlight these two very broad themes as they can encompass the diverse subjects, from technology, medicine and architecture to linguistics, music, fishing, gardening et cetera. Papua Niuginian ways of thinking, living, believing, communicating, dying and so on can cover the gamut of academic, journalistic or opinionated writing and we believe that unless we give ourselves a platform to talk about and discuss these things in an open, free and non-exclusively academic space that they may remain the fodder for academics, journalists and other types of writers alone. New social media platforms have given every individual a personal space to share their feelings and ideas openly, sometimes without immediate censure. The Ples Singsing writer’s blog would like to provide another more structured platform for Papua Niuginian expressions in written, visual and audio formats while also providing some regulation of the type and content of materials to be shared publicly.

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