Graduating to illiteracy? Just not on

Justin Olam – rugby league champion (

JUSTIN KUNDALIN – posted on PNG Attitude Blog

KANDEP, ENGA – Papua New Guinea is a developing country doing everything it can to catch up with the Western world.

In my view, easily the greatest Western influence in shaping PNG has been education; although other transformational forces, such as building a minerals-based economy, have been crucial.

Something that really concerns me, however, is whether our people can cope effectively in what is a complex, competitive and challenging world.

I make this remark because it seems to me that many young professionals are graduating from universities and colleges only to begin moving backwards to a form of illiteracy – the place from which you began.

This could be a tragedy for our nation, so how does it happen and what does it mean?

Many people who have studied at the better educational institutions in PNG fail to grow and improve their knowledge and performance after graduating.

True education is not just attending lectures, reading textbooks, completing assignments and passing examinations in the academic environment.

True education is about continuing to learn by whatever means to refine the intellect and build knowledge so as to become an effective person whatever your field or wherever life takes you.

To not keep learning is to risk backtracking to a state which degrades the value of the education you have received and the credentials you have earned.

Too many people leave the academic world and lose touch with the learning that can assist them to serve better.

It’s as if their knowledge dies in them. They become graveyards of wisdom.

Squandered is the knowledge that should drive them to excel in their field and have brilliant careers.

Let me offer two practical examples.

People graduating to become accountants should read books necessary to their profession to keep in touch with current practice, new skills and changing laws and rules.

A nursing graduate – “Papua New Guineans are not just good at wishing and dreaming. We do know how to keep educating ourselves”

Graduate in a medical field must read books, journals and articles, keep building their skills through further study and professional interaction, and keep in touch with new developments.

They must not rely just on attending to the needs of patients – critical though this will always be. If they do not keep learning, they will not be well placed to best attend to those needs.

This thinking applies to every profession and I believe represents a power we all possess to help ourselves not to become virtual ‘illiterates’ in our field.

So here’s a summary of things you can do to keep pace with the world:

read consistently in your field of study; read something every day

write consistently in your field; think about your profession and share your knowledge

don’t serve long terms in your field without refreshing your knowledge through further study, engaging with your professional peers, joining relevant associations and, as you build your skills, training others

spend less time on social media absorbing unnecessary garbage; social media offers too many really good learning opportunities that should not be wasted

learn how to manage time better so you can do more with the hours you have believe that a tendency to read and write less after graduation only helps us to slip backwards into a form of professional illiteracy.

Dr Yalinu Poya at the University of Glasgow

In 2010, Yalina Poya graduated from the University of Papua New Guinea with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and her first job, which lasted for two years, was as an executive assistant.

She then managed to enter her professional field and worked for 18 months as a process technician for Barrick Gold before winning a scholarship for further study in China, graduating with a master’s degree in inorganic chemistry.

From there, Yalina was unstoppable. Offered the opportunity to study for a PhD at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, she graduated in 2020 and now lectures in six subjects at the Glasgow International College.

She is also editorial advisor for the Journal of the PNG Institute of Chemists in and PNG country representative on the International Younger Chemists Network.

Justin Olam in full flight against the Brisbane Broncos (Wikipedia)

The rise of my namesake, Chimbu-born rugby league champion Justin Olam, has been equally spectacular but in a very different field.

While he was at school, his parents wanted him to prioritise education and he didn’t play rugby league until university. He graduated from the PNG University of Technology with a Bachelor’s degree in applied physics.

He played his first international game for PNG in 2016 and since 2019 has been a top performer for the Melbourne Storm Club in Australia, appearing in three premiership finals and in 2021 being voted as centre of the year.

There are many Yalinas and Justins in PNG and the world. Our country has produced marvellous champions in every field from aviation to zoology.

Papua New Guineans are not just good at wishing and dreaming.

We do know how to keep educating ourselves after leaving the classrooms and lecture halls.

Manila and Justin Kundalin with Justin Jr

But once we have wished and dreamed, we need to do.

My plea to you is to read and write and do, to keep abreast of the modern progressive world and take advantage of what is open to us – which is everything.

Let’s not graduate backwards to illiteracy. Let’s never allow the knowledge to die.

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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