Local authored books will embrace Papua New Guinea

SHEENA PUAYIL | Tingting BIlong Mi Essay 2020 entry

Winners of the inaugural Crocodile Prize 2011

In the libraries of many higher institutions, as well as on the shelves and tables of numerous elementary, primary and secondary schools around the country, there is countless number of foreign books. This may mean that our government has overlooked the books which are being written in PNG’s own culture and context by PNG’s authors. Likely consequences of this are: our country might lose its cultural identity; the poor educational standard of the country might still persist; and lots of government’s money might be spent on foreign books. For these reasons, this particular paper will argue on the note that PNG government should buy PNG authored books. The argument will be presented with the points: firstly, PNG authored books preserve our culture and tradition; secondly, PNG authored books can improve our educational standards to a higher level; and finally, buying PNG authored books costs less than purchasing of foreign authored books. However, the main issue in this argument will be presented before the points of argument in this paper.

When we compare the number of books which are written by PNG authors with foreign authors, we would end up with the conclusion that PNG authored books are very limited than foreign authored books. Our government has been spending a lot on foreign books despite the fact that the people are born with a very extraordinary story-telling tradition. Based on the estimated data of the Michael Somare Library (MSL) in University of PNG (UPNG), there are 37,920 resources which include books, pamphlets, thesis, journals and others. However, from that 37,920, it was estimated that only around 100 are PNG authored books. This implies that we do not have a lot of books that are written by our own local authors. As a result, we might not be able to keep the stories and cultures of our nation alive through literature, and the country’s illiteracy rate and expenditure will still increase.

In many PNG authored books, the context that most stories are written in are derived from the livelihood of various societies in PNG. They express PNG’s cultures and traditions in the form of literature in which when readers read, they can tell the stories to others in their society. Through this way, many unique cultures and traditions that are slowly dying out can be able to be preserved and be sustained. For example, found in the book titled Man of Calibre, written by a PNG’s own author named Baka Barakove Bina, was the story written in the context of the Highlands region on what highlanders do when they try to identify innocent person in conflicts. When readers read the book, it will teach them the practices of the past which would give them the opportunity to evaluate their living. ‘‘Children need stories that they can understand in the context of their own lives as well as literature that expands their imagination, and also by reading local books readers develop a better appreciation of their people and their country (www.change.org)’’. Stories from the past could be told through the literature of PNG authors and when readers read and tell the stories to others, it can possibly save the country’s prehistory. This way of cultural preservation is essential than us reading about a foreign culture and letting it influence our way of living because, it is uglier when we try to become somebody else when we originally are not.

Moreover, PNG authored books are very easy to comprehend and understand than foreign authored books. Most PNG authored books are written in simple English form which they enable children, teenagers, adults and people from all walks of life to understand and interprets the messages in the stories easily without having many complications. This can improve people’s learning and literacy abilities and put people in a better position to be able to read and understand things that are far beyond their understanding. For example, elementary schools in the country are the foundation to children’s education level where simple English is appropriate at that level in order for children to grasp the ideas and knowledge of a complex English as they move from level to level.

However, there are no enough PNG authored books being available which is why when children read complex English books which are written by foreign authors, they find it hard to understand what they are reading. According to a comment raised by Philip Fitzpatrick in 2019 on why there is still a high level of illiteracy rate, he proposed the idea that many people are reading books but the reason why they do not comprehend well is because ‘‘they are not reading books by PNG writers’’ (PNG Attitude, 2019). Most books written by PNG authors are in simple English and this can possibly improve the level of people’s understanding. Recurring issues such as: many school drop-outs after grade 8, 10 and 12; children having no interest in education; and students having complications in understanding and interpreting English could only be reduced if PNG authored books are available to all readers across the country.

Finally, books which are being purchased from overseas’ are quite expensive than books which are bought locally. For instance, a book written by Ben Carson was being sold at forty-five Kina (K45) in UPNG’s book shop while a book titled Melanesian Philosophy, written by UPNG lecturers was being sold at ten Kina (K10). This shows that local books are cheaper than books which have been bought from overseas. As seen on a Facebook page Koroba Hela Province PNG (2019), Daniel Kumbon, a person who belong to a group of developing PNG writers that published their books as a result of the Crocodile Prize annual literary competition, has been selling his book titled ‘Survivor’ through Amazon for US$6.45 which is K21.50t. This is less than the Teacher’s resource books which are sold by foreign publishers at the cost of around K180. Our government might spend a lot on books which are written by foreign authors while our own local authors are struggling to get their books being published and being sold out.

In conclusion, PNG’s government has been spending and getting in a lot of foreign authored books without appreciating the country’s own literature by local writers. As the consequences of this, many people in today’s generation do not know their prehistory and the cultures and traditions from where they belong to. While people are trying their best to adhere to the complex nature of the English language that are being written in foreign authored books, literacy rate of the country remains very poor. Without careful assessment, our government continues to spend more on foreign authored books instead of supporting our local writers and the writing industry in PNG. For the sake of our culture, the development of our people’s knowledge and the budget of our government, there should be a reduction in our government’s spending on foreign authored books. The government should invest more on our own local writing and books industry. They should create publishing industries in various institutions like UPNG and University of Goroka to help local writers and students get their books out to the people. Additionally, the existing publishers like the Crocodile Publisher have to be fully funded by the government to help them reach out to PNG authors who can produce a literature that can improve the learning abilities of the people while saving the cultures and the budget of the beautiful island nation of PNG.


KorobaHela Province PNG.(2019).InFacebook. RetrievedJan 22, 2021, fromhttp:www.facebook.com

PNG Attitude.(2019, November 7). Let’s give PNG a reading culture. Retrieved from http://www.pngattitude.com


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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