Literacy, a blessing taken for granted

By Megan Fiu Ra’vu

Did you know, there is an estimate of over 773 million adults around the world who are illiterate? That’s not just it, United States, the most powerful and developed country in the world has an estimated 32 million American adults who are illiterate. That’s quite shocking right? Okay, now try imagine a developing country like Papua New Guinea in this big picture. Where do we stand in terms of literacy and benefiting from the digital age?

In the 21st century, literacy is a blessing taken for granted. With the changes and advancement in technology, people prefer reading information on a computer screen than reading a book. So what are the outcomes of on-screen reading compared with reading in print? Current research suggests that reading online results in lower understanding and less critical reflection. “[Print reading] is kind of like meditation — focusing our attention on something still,” (Mangen, 2020) In this changing world, we need to navigate with being able to read or write and without knowing both is going to be a barrier for us to experience and see many things life has to offer.

Literacy Day is important to everyone hence, it is good for community participation, effective communication and employment advancement. Literacy is the key to personal empowerment which gives us personal dignity and self-worth. We need literacy so that we can engage with the written word, keep up with current events, communicate effectively, and understand the issues in everyday life.

Even though, there has being some progress in improving literacy rates since the first International Literacy Day in the past fifty years, illiteracy still remains a global problem.

International Literacy Day was founded in 1965, by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It takes place once every year on September 8 to remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights. Its main purpose is to raise awareness and concern for literacy problems that arise in local communities as well as globally. In 1967, the first International Literacy Day was held in government schools, and communities all around the world to participate in activities designed to focus on effective ways to end illiteracy even at a local level. International Literacy Day turned out to focus toward the literacy skills necessary to navigate digital-mediated societies.

I was born in the 1990s when computers and phones were not as influential as they are today, it was that decade when cell phones and internet started to take off. I’m thankful to have grown up reading books and writing journals. Comparing my time to today, there has being a drastic change. Looking back, I had good times compared to this century as everyone is always on their phones, people do not communicate face-to-face anymore. The abundance of technology in today’s society had increased poor performance in writing and a decrease in critical thinking. We need literacy for a human centred recovery. I remember back in primary school, we always participated in events like national book week and I loved it so much because I was interested in reading and I had a passion to write. I didn’t know about International Literacy Day until this year, however I think these important dates are no different to each other.

International Literacy Day is just as equally important as any other date set aside to remember, however in Papua New Guinea, not everyone knows about this important day and its purpose. Although schools celebrate this day, the rest of the populace does not know this day’s importance. Illiteracy is a big issue in a developing country like Papua New Guinea. The question we should ask ourselves, what should I do to educate people about this International Literacy Day?

Tell someone about ‘International Literacy Day’. Donate books you don’t need to local schools that need them the most, gift someone a book because you don’t know what it could do to the other person’s life. You don’t have to start a community lending library but you can still help your local community by teaching people how to read and write. Remember literacy is a bridge from misery to hope.

Happy International Literacy Day!

References
Mangen, A. (2020, July 28). Retrieved from https://www.brainfacts.org/neuroscience-in-society/tech-and-the-brain/2020/reading-on-paper-versus-screens-whats-the-difference-072820
National Today. (2021, September Tuesday). Retrieved from https://nationaltoday.com/international-literacy-day/
Sustainable Development Goals. (2021, September 07). Retrieved from http://uis.unesco.org/en/topic/literacy

MENYAMYA

By Nolan Neson

(I am a patriotic villager who loves and embraces the language, art and culture of my people and heritage).

Menyamya
A home in-between the intersecting jungle boarders
Of Gulf, Eastern Highlands, and Morobe

Menyamya
A home geographically entrenched in the Kapau fault and delineates the Western margin of the Owen Stanley metamorphic belt

Menyamya
A home of vast tropical rainforests and plain grasslands

Menyamya
A home beautifully immersed in unspoilt scenic beauty of nature

Menyamya
A home where the lush virgin forests, the pristine mountain streams from time immemorial has cascaded down from mountains for years

Menyamya
A home where mountains touch the skies in the misty mornings

Menyamya
A home of swift flowing rivers, Fresh springs and creeks to high waterfalls

Menyamya
A home in the freezing nights, Cold mornings and a tropical sweet summer

Menyamya
A home of unforgettable impression of her people’s openness, sincerity and peaceful way of life

Menyamya
A home in the heart of mainland New Guinea

Menyamya,
Our haven
Where we call home.

Haiveta Babul aka Mrs. No Life in Nouvelle Caledonia

By Neko Babul

Before I start on the next episode, let me tell you the meaning of Haiveta Mori. It means Happy Girl in the Toaripi language of Gulf Province.

Haiveta was in her element, she got everything organized, her father Mr. J.P. Sarufa constructed a wooden chest to pack the bulky items like blankets and pillows, cooking pots and pans plus other utensils.

We got our travel documents like passports and visas, and did the medical checks at the Port Moresby General Hospital.

We brought back from Lae my niece Grace whose mother passed away after giving birth to her in May 1979. She was included with baby John Maiva Babul in Haiveta’s passport.

Before going to Nouméa, I had to attend a Population Census conference in East West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii from end of May to end of June.

Soon after arriving back from Hawaii, we were ready to go to Nouméa.

The new Babul family flew by Air Niugini to Brisbane airport, then boarded a Qantas flight to Nouméa.

We were picked up at the airport and taken to our new home in Nouméa.

I started working with Mr. Groeneweld, a Dutchman who was a consultant to the Pacific islands on Population studies. Joining me was a Fijian woman Ms. Vilimaina.

Haiveta wasted no time in settling in to our home, which was a two bedroom flat, upstairs with a lounge downstairs. A Solomon Islands family had the next flat.

We were pleasantly surprised to meet a Tolai wantok called Mr. Ellison Kaivovo and family, plus a Mr. Bob from Australia with his Vabukori wife with their kids. Both Ellison Kaivovo and Bob were employed by the South Pacific Commission.

Life and work at the South Pacific Commission was easy going, and the life was perfect. We had a canteen at the Commission where we obtained our food supply, and it was deducted from our monthly allowance.

Once a month, the Papua New Guinea families including Bob and his family, and our Solomon Islands wantok had a barbecue and games and we men would drink our French beers.

The next episode; Adventures in New Caledonia.

As dark as your first two steps away

By Angela Liu

My eyes were pouring, my sobbing’s as loud as a giant’s and my mind’s overflowing with wild, crazy thoughts. It was as dark as your first two steps away.

Music’s at its highest, confessions to friends and family. Even the silence was revving like a racing car. It’s deafening. It was as dark as your first two steps away.

Alone with machines, balls of tears rolling down my cheeks and the loudest music is totally unheard. As hot as a boiling pot of water were my eyes sending off those hot balls of tears. I can’t even feel the heat but my head freezing! It was like meteors travelling through an enchanted space. It was as dark as your first two steps away.

Thousands of conversations going on in my mind, each one trying to be heard but they all seemed to be unnoticed. It’s so devastatingly cruel, lonely and anxious.

If only you didn’t take the first two steps away.

Where we call our home

Photo courtesy: Borrowed from goggle (Ples Singsing blog)

By Fiada Kede

Where we call our home
Wherever it may be
May it not be as wealthy as Rome
May it be high up on the mountains or below the valleys, forest or near the sea

Our home is where our duty calls
In our hands, lies its fate
To be as weak as the lazy creeks or as strong as the mighty falls
So compatriots, with the forethought navigate

Our home today, tomorrow offspring’s
Our sow today, the Tomorrows reaps
The cherries and berries of this home’s blessings
Consume not all, spare them some heaps

When the clock strikes, we will leave for heaven
But leave behind, still a haven

Birth. School. Life or Death. Na takis bilong gavman?

BY JULIUS JETHRO

An opinion article on education from one perspective of youths

Photo provided by Julius Jethro: Youth witnessing a public event

Why education if you can’t find yourself in colleges or university? What is an education? Why does one need knowledge to aid one’s survival? How long has the education existed on earth? Who is to be educated by whom? Where can one find education and when is it applicable?

Education is riddled with so many unanswered questions of human tragedy, the plague of illiteracy has rooted deep in our culture.

Education was rare in the recent past and only those families who have been able to achieve levels of education with the “white man” or Western life are enjoying the fruit of the education while the vast majority of the population are yet to gain the full value of education and what benefits it holds.

Sadly, the majority of our populace are still live below the average life expectancy. Poverty, sickness and associated shame has ruined our society.

We are lame to some predicaments that have become our lifestyle and continually pass the baton to the next generation.

We are preying on the next generations that we should instead raise up to take life to different level.

The helpless youngsters who should contribute meaningfully to the society are enraged with the dismal educational system which is only design to flush them aside.

The millennium that we are heading to is not a time of optimism but pessimism, despair instead of hope.

We are instilled with fears of losing our education, failing and falling behind in our educational pursuits. We fear failure more than we look forward to the education we get from the classroom.

Classroom is becoming a place of intermediation between life and death.

Fatal decision one can ever make during the first or second decade of one’s life are well chorus at the classroom.

We spend two to four years in the high school classroom only to graduate with the fear that we might not be able to continue education or finding job.

We are doomed to some unforeseen life that has reaped from society and our generation.

Since independence up to now there’s no real benefit of education in most homes in our beautiful country.

What we call a country is a ship manned by the drop-outs, the undeniable statistics that have stood test of time.

Should we allow this to continue for the next 50 years or resolve the education issues and let the dreams of our forefathers ride freely on the air?

We have had enough of this and its time our government should come up with a plan to salvage this generation and engage them into some areas that can benefit

them and the nation.

Julius hails from Menyamya in Morobe Province and is a student in Mechanical Engineering at the PNG University of Technology. He was an entrant in the Tingting Bilong Mi Essays.

Haiveta Babul aka Mrs. No Adventures in Nouvelle Caledonia

By Neko Babul

Haiveta wasted no time in getting to know her fellow womenfolk at the South Pacific Commission community. Her friends taught her French, and took her on a round trip around the island.

On Friday nights, we were treated to free shows of Tahitian, Wallis and Futuna Islands, or Kanaky music and dance. During our stay in Nouméa, Waikiki Tamure was also very popular and the baby Babul’s favourite for doing the Tamure dance moves.

My Australian friend Bob and I did some fishing with the net in surrounding sea. One time, our Solomon Islands friends invited us out to join some local Kanaky friends for a Lap lap. Lap lap is a local dish popular in New Caledonia, and a Vanuatu favourite and national dish. The dish is made as follows;

scrape yams after peeling the skin place chicken pieces in the raw yam cream with coconut cream wrap in banana leaves and tie with copper wire. Place the wrapped mix in earth oven with heated rocks the same way as our PNG mumu. You can follow the same process using bananas and fresh fish.

From time to time we would travel to the centre of Nouméa for shopping and sight seeing. The city had shopping malls, and small stores were mostly owned by the Vietnamese.

New Caledonia is still one of France’s overseas territories so you will find people other French territories and countries which were under French rule.

Overseas tourists were mainly Japanese young people who come in for honeymoon in the pristine beaches of the territory. Our stay was interrupted when we received news of one of Haiveta’s brothers, Sarufa was electrocuted playing and electric guitar and he died. The electrocution happened at a neighbor’s house next door to their home in Waigani.

Haiveta quickly packed our belongings and together with baby John Maiva and Grace flew back home via Brisbane to Port Moresby in November. I followed later in December when the attachment was officially over and I flew back via Sydney to Port Moresby. 1981 ended well, except for the unfortunate death in the family. The story continues into 1982;

Malarial Death Games

By Gregory Bablis

Written Tuesday 15 June 2021 at Tol Station, Sinivit LLG in the Pomio District of East New Britain Province whilst recovering from malaria and still under medications.

Malarial Death Games

I’ve battled you most of my life
In health, I am winning
But damn you give me so much strife
When your death zone I’m entering
Warmth leaves my body
Like a soul unmooring from its host
The flashes you give are hot yet chilly
I feel half human, half ghost.

Hot or cold, I cannot tell
In the night and in the day
I’m freezing my ass off in hell
No time for work or play
Oh such vivid, beautiful dreams you give
Of loved ones, joy and sorrow
Testing my will to live
Die now or live another tomorrow.

Mind-numbing migraines
My head is in the clouds
Whole body writhes with aches and pains
The fever does Lucifer proud
Must make it quick to the clinic
To get on medications
There’s no time to panic
Health worker hurry with the bloody prescriptions!

Now I’m doing fieldwork in Tol, Pomio
At a WWII massacre site
I think of soldiers and others affected by the war
And how many back then suffered a similar plight
Did they have easy access to Chloroquin and Penicillin?
Medicines to stave off the delirium
Or were they left at the mercy of malaria’s chagrin
To rush them off to Elysium.

Tis already a paradise we live in
But some things I wish the tropics had not
Like the mistress of Satan
Yes, Anopheles, I wish you’d leave our lot
Try as I may to avoid thee
With long-sleeved clothes, nets and sprays
Your nocturnal games and puny size is your best strategy
To shorten my long-lived days.

Malan

By Gregory Bablis

Poem written on Saturday 01 May 2021 sitting underneath shade trees at Malan Raun Wara.

Malan

Patterning the water
Ripples
Bouncing off the surface
Reflections
Rolling into the shallows
Waves
Doorway to a safer place
Coral lagoon
Giving cooling shade
Trees
Sulka spirit of the place
Malan
German colonial activities
Zungen / Tongue Point
Popular Tok Pisin descriptor
Raun wara
Baining head waters
Madaingepes
Who came here first?
Mother Earth.

Open your mind, read & write

By CAROLINE EVARI – posted on PNG Attitude blog on 23 August 2021

PORT MORESBY – The month of August is a significant month in Papua New Guinea for authors and schools.

It is during this month that schools celebrate Book Week, and this year I was privileged to launch the Book Week program at Kopkop College in Port Moresby.

I also participated in a virtual week-long writing workshop with the Higaturu International School in Oro Province.

In my speech at Kopkop I shared my writing journey with students and teachers in the hope they too can begin writing and find the courage to get into publishing.

Writing has always been my hobby. As a six-year old I would sitt in front of the TV screen watching Sesame Street and then retell every episode in my own words.

I did not own a smart phone or laptop, but I had television.

When I started school, I had an instant connection to reading and writing. Learning became fun and reading was so easy.

But school life didn’t go well for me. Just after I completed Grade 1 in 1996, my dad retired from his fulltime job to contest the national elections in 1997 and we had to relocate to our village in Oro.

Given the remoteness of the place, there were few schools and the only one nearby had just one class and one teacher who taught Grade 5.

I was supposed to be in Grade 2, but my dad convinced the teacher to enrol me.

On my first day, the teacher asked if I could read his handwriting and I said ‘no’. He then asked me if I could read and I said ‘yes’.

After learning that, he handed me a yellow card headed, ‘Reading and Comprehension’.

On the front of the card was a story for me to read and on the back was a list of questions to answer.

From reading and comprehension cards, I went on to practice handwriting using handwriting cards and before long I didn’t have to do card exercises anymore, because I could read the teacher’s handwriting and understand the lessons he was giving.

Everything was getting better but at term break the teacher flew out and never returned. I didn’t go to school again for five years.

My life continued as a village kid. I spent my days accompanying my parents to the garden or looking after my grandmother. Everything was OK but I did miss school, especially reading.

Whenever I stayed home with my grandmother, I’d take out an exercise book and write stories that I would read to myself.

Writing was also my only way of speaking English, because the longer I stayed in the village the more I spoke the local language.

Eventually I realised I was slowly forgetting how to speak and write in English. It was really then I developed a love for writing and began to question whether I would ever have the opportunity to return to school.

One night as we gathered around the fireplace for dinner, dad told us that he was going to be getting on a chartered plane the next day to go to Port Moresby.

He advised us to be obedient to mother and not to let her do all the hard work alone.

I don’t know how this news affected my siblings but for me it made up my mind – I would follow dad to Port Moresby.

Without consulting my parents, I packed a small bag and the next day, as dad was getting ready to leave, I told him I was going with him.

Although he resisted, I stood on the road with my bag and started to cry. The tears were of longing for a better education.

Suddenly my dad had a change of heart. He walked back, wiped away my tears, picked up my bag and said he would take me. Oh, the joy I had in my heart.

Dad was in the city for only a short time and had to return to the village, but I was left with my older siblings who took on the role of educating and raising me.

I had to repeat Grade 5 – which was dad’s advice. It was difficult as I had been away from school for so long, but I could read, write, and speak English made the transition easier.

Life was challenging living without mum and dad but going back to the village was not an option for me. I stuck to school whether I had enough money or a full stomach. I was determined to excel and make my dad proud of me.

I was motivated because in English lessons the teacher always read out my stories as an example of good writing.

Then, after Grade 8, I was selected to move to Grade 9 at Marianville Secondary School.

My passion for writing elevated even further when I started writing journal entries at Marianville. It was also then I started writing poetry.

Poetry became an easy genre for me because I could confide in it. I had lived far away from my parents for so long and found that writing became therapy.

I developed a relationship with my journal and would look forward to receiving it after it was marked. I celebrated every positive comment from the teacher and encouraged myself to write better.

One morning, my journal got rejected by my Language & Literature teacher, she was a tough one. She had us write five journal entries a week after giving us two topics, one for an essay and the other for a creative piece.

She also rejected every journal that came in late and refused to mark them. For someone like me who took my writing and her comments seriously, that my journal got rejected hurt me badly and I went to the restroom for a 10-minute cry.

After I walked out, I took the journal to another teacher and asked her to critique my work. She did an incredible job. And I found this is how it is with writing. Do not be limited by one critique, you’ll find more people who will appreciate and celebrate your style and guide you to write better. Cry if you must, but there are better ways.

Eventually I found the courage to share my writing with my peers. I also wrote two songs that were sung, one in school and one in church. Two plays of mine were staged, one in school and one in church.

I wrote poems for funerals, birthdays and weddings. My confidence was boosted as more people began to tell me they enjoyed my writing.

I took part in writing competitions and submitted poems to The Nationalnewspaper. Then in 2013, when I entered the Crocodile Prize, my perspective about writing transformed as I started receiving good critiques from writers in other parts of the world.

More often now I was connecting with other Papua New Guinean writers. In 2016, along with 44 other Papua New Guinean women, I contributed to the My Walk to Equality anthology, the first collection of PNG women’s writing.

After seeing other Papua New Guineans getting published, I became interested because I had a compiled a collection of poems but did not know how to publish them.

Then in 2018, I discovered that Library for All was collecting children’s stories from Papua New Guinean writers and I decided to write a few and send them. Zuki the Crocodile was my first children’s story that was accepted and published.

Motivated by this, I went on to write 27 more stories which have all been accepted and published. In 2019 I published my first book of poetry, ‘Nanu Sina: My Words’. It is a collection extracted from my journal when I was a student at Marianville.

In 2020 while locked down by Covid, three other Papua New Guinean writers and I launched the Ples Singing blog – a literary platform dedicated to promoting reading and writing in PNG.

In June this year, I released a children’s book, ‘When I grow up’, which I independently published through a collaboration with a female PNG artist and publisher.

As of today, I have written 29 children’s story books and a book of my poetry.

In a country like ours, where Western culture is taking over, there is a need for our stories to be captured in books for future generations.

PNG literature is a sleeping giant waiting to be woken by a generation of active minds ready to tell and record forever the diversity of this country so it is accurately represented to the outside world.

Our languages, traditional knowledge and skills, myths and legends all will be forgotten one day if they are not written.

Read, because this is the way to open your mind to great ideas and, most importantly, write. Use your knowledge to create something beautiful. Something original. Something worth celebrating. Something you can give back to this country.

Follow this link to catch up ( and buy if you want to) with Caroline’s story books

https://www.pngattitude.com/2021/08/from-hobby-to-passion-to-author.html