Senegal-look-a-likes with Malayan hairdos: meaning of PNG

Papua New Guinea Map, draped in its flag

We all have names, not of our choice, but at least every name has significance. You were named after a hero, a dear friend of your mum, or native language that has deeper meaning. It’s different if something or someone is given a name by a stranger, depicting some meaning that only the stranger knows, and that name stuck for more than 100 years. Especially if the name had no significance or didn’t depict the object named. Such was the case with Papua and New Guinea, which became Papua New Guinea at independence in 1975.

In 2015, Professor John Waiko suggested that Papua New Guinea be renamed “Paradise Country” during the Waigani Seminar at the University of Papua New Guinea. He was ridiculed. I thought it was funny too. But when you look at the alternative, that is, what Papua New Guinea means, it can be best summarized as:

“Black look-a-likes of those occupying south of the Senegal River, the second lot to be discovered, with Malayan hairdos.”

In this blog I explore how the name “Papua New Guinea” came about, and ask whether we should be content with it.

What does “Papua” mean?

Why do we have “New” in between?

What does “Guinea” mean?

To make sense of things, we have to separate Papua from New Guinea, as it was before 1975. Papua was colonized by the British in 1884 at the request of British colony in what is now Australia, as they feared German presence to the north of Papua. The Germans had colonized the north, using New Guinea Company earlier in the year.

But neither Britain nor Germany gave Papua New Guinea it’s name. Don Jorge de Meneses, a Portuguese explorer, is credited with the European discovery of the principal island of Papua New Guinea in around 1526-27. He is also credited with giving the name “Papua.”

Papua derives from the Malayan word pepuah meaning curly or curly hair. The people along the southern coast of the island had hairs that looked like those in the Malayan Peninsula. The word Papua was use to describe our people who had curly hairs similar to the Malays. They had a Malayan-like hairdo.

It sounds like a harmless descriptive word. But if you asked the locals at the time what they called themselves as a people, I’m sure you’d have a much better description of who they are as a people than a word merely describing Malayan-like hairdo. The people that Don Jorge de Meneses observed probably had a name for themselves. Something that signified their history, legend, culture etc. What did they collectively call themselves? One thing is certain: they never called themselves “curly haired Malayan look-a-likes.”

And then you have “New Guinea”. This is a bit more problematic.

‘New’ here means those found on this (new) island were not the first to have such black features. They looked like people found elsewhere in Western Africa. At the time, Spain, France, and Portuguese divided up Western African, including a landmass that they called Guinea.

We were called ‘New Guinea’ because we looked like those in Guinea in West Africa. At independence, French Guinea became Guinea as it is known today. Spanish Guinea became Equatorial Guinea, and Portuguese Guinea became Guinea-Bissau.

So what’s a Guinea?

I know what you’re thinking: Guinea Pig 🐷. No it’s not. A curly haired guinea pig would have sounded very derogatory, thank goodness it’s not.

There’s no agreement on why portions of West Africa were called Guinea. Guinea is a Spanish word, which derived from a Portuguese word ‘Guine.’ Guinea was used by the Portuguese to refer to ‘land occupied by black Guineus’ or black Africans living south of the Senegal River.

New Guinea therefore, essentially meant ‘look-a-likes’ of people who occupy the south of Senegal River in Western Africa.

So there you go. Papua New Guinea as we know now has nothing original about it. It’s a construct of terms describing ‘look-a-likes’ of those in Western Africa and those in the Malays. The former has to do with skin pigmentation and the latter has to do with hairdo.

Papua New Guinea, in summary, would essentially mean:

“Black look-a-likes of those occupying south of the Senegal River, the second lot to be discovered, with Malayan hairdos.”

Senegal-look-a-like with a Malayan hairdo is hardly a description of what we are, don’t you think?

My preference: Kumul Nation.

What other names do you think best fits us?

SANA – Tribute Poem by Yanamlyn Yana

Sir Michael Somare. PC: Kalakai Photography

the sun did not rise as it used to
it knew it won’t shine on you
the heavens above mourned heavily
its tears rushing down streams
sweeping away all in its way
the clouds are low today
as if they want to get a glimpse of you
laying in your bed
to make sure it truly is true
that you are no more

you fought for your people
the Melanesian people of PNG
it did not take years
for you to be granted self governance status
they may say it was given on a golden plate
but I say not one will ever comprehend sleepless nights
you endured to make sure we were free people

free people do not ask for freedom
they claim it
and you did
bringing together thousand tribes
to co-exist with each other

we are free people
do not worry
rest well Melanesia Warrior
know that we are free
as our ancestors were
as our forefathers were

this is our land
of high mountains
of swaying palms
and coral seas
in its fullest splendor
people are in awe
as to ask ‘where did this paradise emerge from’

the spirits of the land, the sea and the mountains
of our great great ancestors
as they watched you when your Mama gave birth to you
as they watched you when you grew up
as they watched you when you fought for us
as they watched you when you stood on the Independence Hill
and as now they watch you
when you are taken to the sky above
by the Great Mighty Spirit of God

as a Kwila you stood
strong and firm, immovable
Now as a Kumul you fly
Fly so high proudly
Into your heavenly home

be rest assurred
that your legacy lives on


The poem, originally written by Yanamlyn Yana on 26 February 2021, the day Sir Michael Somare passed on. Republished with permission.

Lazarus Towa: Managing 500 emails/messages per day

Lazarus Towa (left) and I
PC: Lyn Yana

Before yesterday, I spoke to Lazarus just once. Sometime this year we met briefly, say hello and passed. That’s what you do when you meet your Facebook friend, right?

But I’ve been hoping to speak to this guy. To ask him questions. We all know Lazarus is the guy who runs the popular “Current Job Vacancy Repost with LT”, a Facebook group that has 202, 000 followers. The guy who was awarded the Young Man of Honor by Digicel Foundation in 2018, and won the 2018 Commonwealth Youths Award from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, and had a chat with Prince Harry, and the United Nations Youth Champions for Sustainable Development and some that we probably don’t know about.

But when I come across people like Lazarus, I ask them “how do you do it?” or “how did you do it?”

Cameras love the grand stage. Newspapers sell papers covering award nights and TVs have high viewers during grand finals. But there are no cameras, no journalists, and no coverage of the toils that leads to these grand moments.

So when I walked past him for the second time, and realized he was alone, I acted as though I just stumbled across a long lost friend. High-fived and invited myself to the empty seat opposite him. We had more than one hour chat. And I began with the question: “how do you do it?” Every time I go online, I see a post on “Current Vacancy Repost with LT”: either a vacancy, a story of how someone got a job using tips from Lazarus, scholarship information, and Lazarus replying to these people. How does he do that? I teach approximately 400 students at UPNG every year, and it kills me! 202, 000? How?

This guy replies to about 500 messages per day, using his own resources. Messages from people from all walks of life. Messages from PNG and the Pacific region. Questions range from seeking assistance from Lazarus on how to develop their CVs. Questions about how to prepare for an interview. Questions about a job application he shares on his Facebook group, scholarship, etc.

I asked him questions like: how do you manage your time; has it ever crossed your mind to monetize a large following of 202 thousand; where does your motivation comes from; how do you manage criticisms; why did you start such a time consuming voluntary job; how many people have gotten jobs because of your help; how long are you planning to keep this thing running?

Below is a summary of our chat.

Why and how did you start?

Lazarus was one of the first among his friends to get a job right after the end of his final year of studies in 2014. Thanks to an internship the previous year with Australian Awards office in PNG. After securing a job with Awards PNG (he’s now with US Embassy – PNG), he started helping his friends to find jobs. He would do their photocopies, scans, fix their CVs etc using his own resources. He then realized that not everyone can develop a good CV, or better sell their skills, or even prepare for an interview. He thought “if this is a problem faced by people I know, then there must be many more who face such challenges.” This gave birth to the now popular “Current Job Report with LT.” He also runs trainings o weekends and holidays on these same topics.

How many people have you helped secure jobs so far?

Lazarus says that in his honest estimation, he has directly helped more than 700 people get jobs. However, I think this is a conservative estimate. His estimate is based on how many people send him a message to thank him, or post on Facebook and tag him after getting a job with his help. We know the story about the 10 people that Jesus Christ healed, right? Only one came back to thank Jesus. Lazarus (coincidently Jesus’ friend’s namesake), may be dealing with the same. I think few come back to say thank you – after all, if they did it to Jesus, they could do it to anyone 😂.

Has it ever crossed your mind that you could monetize (make money out of) your large followers?

I know he wouldn’t, but asked because this seems to be a trend with the so-called “influencers”. Have you ever come across a video on how to invest in stocks, and the guy tells you the benefits of stock market and then tells you to sign up for a two weeks course to the secrets of becoming a millionaire through stocks? Or a pretty lady tells you how to loose weight but you need to sign up for personal, customized, coaching? So I put it straight to Lazarus. I figured the question made him uncomfortable. He has never monetized his followers, and will never do.

So why do it?

He said he does it because it gives him joy helping another individual get an opportunity in life. His reward for using his own resources, time, and peace of mind? When someone gets an opportunity in life because of his interventions.

He told me: “we could walk out right now (from Cuppa Coffee at Vision City) and walk to the front gate. And before we reach the front gate, we will be stopped couple of times along the way, and people will thank me for helping them get a job, or scholarship etc.”

We didn’t do that because I had someone to meet at the same place. And he left because he had someone to meet. It was Valentines you know.

How do you respond to 500 messages? How do you manage your time?

This invoked a long discussion, but it’s a combination of effective strategy, and efficient use of time. He has developed sample answers for the most popular questions he receives. So if you asked for tips for job interviews, he would copy and paste a detailed response and email it to you. Or send you a pdf. file he designed before. For details about a job vacancy he posts, he’d send you details and contacts he prepared before posting.

But even with a pre-planned responses, you still have to manage 500 of those.

Lazarus uses a strategy I also use in my personal life. Something called ‘incremental gains’ or incremental use of time. You do not have to wait until the last minute and do everything at once. Do it in five minutes sequences if you can. Commit five minutes for every half an hour. So in 30 minutes, you have 25 minutes to do other things. Spend 5 minutes to replying to emails and get back to your work. You can do the same for reading. Try spending 10 minutes out out 60 instead every hour, instead of whole weekend. If you’re consistent, by the end of the day you have done more than if you spent 5 hours straight at night.

However Lazarus does spends his lunch hours and after work hours replying to messages sometimes. He ensures that he doesn’t do his voluntary work helping Pacific Islanders to new opportunities during his work hours at the US Embassy in Port Moresby.

Do you plan on stopping, or what is the future of “Current Job Vacancy Repost with LT”?

Lazarus said he will do it for free, for as long as Lazarus Towa is alive.

Finally, how do you manage criticisms on Facebook that you do this for your own gain?

This was a silly question but I had to ask it anyways. Because I do read such negative comments and accusations. Lazarus’ responded: if you have a clear conscience, and you know what you’re doing, that is all you need. Criticisms have been, and will always will be, a cousin of any good intentions.


Lazarus is one normal Kerowagi kid, who uses his time, energy, and passion to help another human. If we set aside 5 minutes to help another countrymen, a stranger, we will have helped PNG in a great great way.

If you see Lazarus, give him a high-five. The guy has a huge smile.

About “My Sons Are Coming“ series

In 1961, Kondom Agaundo, member of the first legislative council, was invited to give a speech in Canberra. With very limited English, he stumbled before an all-white, English speaking audience. He then went off script, and said the following:

“I am a chief among my people, but now I stand here before you like a child. And when I try to speak in your language, you laugh at my words. But tomorrow my son will come, and he will speak to you in your own language. This time, you will not laugh at him…”

Lazarus is one of many sons. Sons of Kondom Agaundo.

Lazarus’ story is the first of a series of blogs Academia Nomad will run. Celebrating the coming of Kondom Agaundo’s sons and daughters. The young elites of PNG doing great things.

If you know of someone we could interview, comment below.

Bougainville Regional Election: Going backwards from the gains of referendum?

Llane Munau, sole female candidate for Bougainville Regional Seat, 2021. PC: Llane Munau

Let’s begin with a have a quick summary of what this blog is about. This is part two of the regional candidate Llane Munau, the lone female candidate’s experience contesting the recent Bougainville regional election. Earlier we published part one where the Bougainville people, particularly the womenfolk, asked Llane “where is our vote”? (vote blo mipla go we) when the counting tally didn’t reflect how they voted. See link to part one of the article at the end.

Part will make one uneasy. When PNG Electoral Commission set the dates for the Bougainville regional election in January 2021, the Office of Bougainville Electoral Commission was not notified. At least that’s what they said. And then the polling day was initially set to run for two days, but reduced to one day for some polling stations (locations). This information didn’t get to the people on time. The polling day for some stations (Central Bougainville for instance) were changed just before the polling day. Again, many voters didn’t know about it. In PNG, any last minute change is a very bad idea, given how slow communications flow. It’s even worse in Bougainville considering the bad communication infrastructure following detestations from the 10 year conflict.

The number of polling stations, more than 400, exceeded the number of police personnel in Bougainville by the hundreds, so naturally integrity of the voting process is now being questioned. Scrutineers who observed very low turnout for the actual voting day in some stations due to change of dates and reduced number of days were surprised that ballot boxes that were supposed to have just 6-12 ballot papers exceeded this numbers during counting…. any many more suspicious and questionable practices and outcomes are being reported.

This claims contrasts with the excellent Bougainville referendum conducted in 2019.

The referendum in 2019 was regarded as great success, not only because it was fulfilling the third and last pillar of the Bougainville Peace Agreement of 2001 (three pillars of BPA were: Autonomy, Weapons Disposal and Referendum), but because it was regarded as transparent, credible, inclusive and innovative by local and international observers. It applied several aspects of election management that were never tried in PNG elections. For instance, ballots were taken to the old people and the disabled who couldn’t come to the polling station; those residing outside of Bougainville – PNG, Solomon Islands, and even Australia were able to vote; and those who didn’t have their names on the common roll still voted under the ‘provisional’ voting. The provisional votes were taken to the counting station and cross-checked with the updated common rolls and counted if the names were on the updated common roll.

So how did a region that did so well for the referendum in 2019 do so poorly for the regional elections just a year later?

Below is Llane’s experience. It’s taken from her Facebook post. It constitutes Part 2 of Llane’s story republished by Academia Nomad on 3 February 2021.


“The first dates of the bi-election were circulated and I sent the circular around. However, I felt I had to reconfirm the dates with OBEC (Office of Bougainville Electrol Commission). The OBEC didn’t know anything about the first dates. So I looked again at the circular and it was from the PNG Electrol Commission. Well understandably; it was an election for the PNG National Government, not Bougainville. Anyway the first dates were postponed and then the second dates came out and I went and nominated.

During my 6 weeks of campaigning, I heard that there will be only one day polling; eventhough the dates given said there would be 2 weeks of polling. When enquiring, the reply was, “…the PNG Electrol Commission would be trialing a new system of running the whole elections so they could use it in the upcoming 2022 PNG National elections.”
When polling day drew nigh, I got the list of places where polling would be held. There were 442 polling sites all through out Bougainville. My first thoughts were, ‘we don’t even have 442 police personels on Bougainville. Who will guard each polling venue?’

Then I looked at the places were the people were expected to go and vote and honestly, some of the villages were miles away from the allocated polling sites. Bougainville has rugged terrain and people have to walk hours, even days to get to a voting venue in some areas. Bougainville might be an island, but the geography and terrain make getting around very difficult. I wondered how 1 day polling could be achieveable, but thought with proper planning and preparation, maybe this could be achieved.

When we got the polling date (Wednesday 20th, 2020), we started letting our supporters know to prepare them to turn up at the polling sites. For us in Central Bougainville, there were 130 polling sites. However in the afternoon of the 19th we got word on the street that polling for Central would be postponed to Thursday 21st because the electrol team in Arawa (Central) were slow to collect their polling items from Buka. The funny thing is, South Bougainville already got their items (eventhough they’re further away from Buka than Central) and they polled on the 20th and 21st 2 days in some areas.

Because it was already late, we couldn’t pass on the message to voters in the rural areas, and many voters in the rural areas turned up to the polling venues on the given date, only to be told to come back the next day. This was utter ignorance on the side of the electrol commission as they didn’t take into consideration that most voters, especially women and the elderly couldn’t make the same journey again to the polling sites the next day. So for Central Bougainville the incompetency of a few electrol officers had great repercussions to the outcome of the elections. Something I hope OBEC and PNGEC must look into. Many voters rights to vote, were deprieved. That is why high number of ballot papers coming in from very remote polling venues raise great suspicion, and especially when the ballots look like they’ve been written by only one person and there are no informal ballots. Because comparing it to the urban sites, there were quite a number of informal ballots from the urban boxes.

Reports and surveys coming in from around the island say that not many people voted. The total number of people who voted against the total number of eligible voters is very low. I guess lower than the cut off percentage required in an election.

This is already a failed election. From the current counting centre it seems like 79 thousand Bougainvillians voted. However, reports from many presiding officers say that not many people voted; some boxes having as low as 6 – 12 people who voted so how did we come up with 79 thousand ballot papers?

It seems that the whole election process was from the start corrupted by the one day polling. Plus voters rolls didn’t have names and voters were required to go back to their constituencies to vote and no postal voting. Bougainville like most rural areas can not have ‘one day voting.’ We are not urbanized like a western country. We have rugged terrain and people have to walk hours, even days to get to a polling venue. I understand this bi-election was a trial by the PNG electrol commission. Therefore, I believe the PNG Government’s motive of conducting this bi-election in Bougainville was not transparent right from the start in the Board Rooms of Port Moresby. I began writing my journey when my female (mamas) supporters asked where their votes had gone. I’m seeing that this question is just the tip of the ice berg, there is so so so much to be addressed or exposed in this whole electrol process or system in PNG and Bougainville.

More to come. For a better upcoming 2022 PNG National Election and 2025 AROB elections. This 1 day polling system is ‘useless’ and must not be used in the 2022 National Elections (Especially for a whole province, as I believe it was already trialled in other parts of PNG). Because if it is used, I already see major problems arising in this beautiful Nation. And lastly, please don’t keep using Bougainville as a testing groud for new formulars and systems.”

The END!

Note: this is Llane Munau’s personal account, and it’s subjective. That should be kept in mind when reading.

For part one of Llane’s story, click this link below:

Where is our vote? Bougainville women ask…

This is an edited version of LIane Munau’s experience as the lone female candidate contesting the Bougainville Regional vacant seat in 2021. This is part one of two parts series where Llane talks about Bougainville women asking why their votes for Llane did not show on the tally when counting started.

Llane Manu. PC: Llane

The Bougainville Regional seat, which represents the people of Bougainville in the PNG parliament was left vacant when the incumbent resigned to contest the Bougainville presidential election in 2019. For those not familiar with the current Bougainville political arrangement, Bougainville has been an autonomous region since 2001. It is referred to as the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, with an House of Representatives led by a president. But it also has representatives in the PNG parliament who represent Bougainville just like any other province in PNG. The representatives in the PNG parliament include Open MPs representing the Open Electorates or districts in Bougainville whilst the Regional MP or Governor represents Bougainville as a whole. Llane contested the governor’s seat in January 2021.

By way of context, since 1975, no women in Bougainville has been elected to PNG parliament. Llane was seeking to become the first woman from Bougainville to win a seat in the PNG parliament. A seat in PNG parliament at this point in time is very crucial, not least being that the PNG Parliament has the final say in whether or not Bougainville becomes independent. In 2019, Bougainvilleans voted 98% in favour of independence from PNG. But the final decision on their political status resides with the 111 MPs in PNG parliament. One of Llane’s five policy platforms was to seek PNG government for a fixed date for independence for Bougainville.

Llane’s policies. PC: Llane

Below are Llane’s experience in her own words…

“The couple of weeks have been a very interesting journey for me as a sole female candidate in the Bougainville Regional Seat By-Election. As I haven’t posted on FB about my journey, but now I feel I owe it to my voters, friends, supporters and family, plus anyone else who wants to know how the elections from campaigning, to polling, and counting went for me.

In one word AWESOME!; until Monday when I started getting calls from women groups around the island asking me; ‘ol vote blong mipla go we?’ (Where are our votes?). And there was also the question, ‘Why na ol meri Bougainville no voteim displa wanpla meri candidate tasol? (Why didn’t the women of Bougainville vote for this sole female candidate?)

The answer is: the majority of females who voted did vote for me. Not because I was the only female candidate, but because they agreed with my five policy platforms.”

Llane’s nomination got media coverage as a sole female contestant.

“Now, the big question is, where are the votes and why aren’t they showing on the tally board? In Siwai a group of more than 60 women hired a truck by themselves and went to a particular polling venue and cast their votes for me (Box 14); as they said, ‘it’s time they all vote for a female.’ But when the tally came out I only got 14 votes from the whole constituency. Where are these womens votes? Women do not lie about their votes, especially mothers from women fellowship groups.

In Taonita Teop and Taonita Tinputz it was the same. I didn’t mind until women called me up, or stopped our vehicle on the road to ask me, ‘ol vote blong mipla go we?’ ‘Mipla lotu group mama wantaim ol pikinini na man blong mipla go voteim yu.’ Then came the church youth groups, asking the same question, and the ex-combatants. I didn’t know how I could answer them because their votes never showed on the tally. I knew I had done a very good campaign in the Tinputz areas, and the places I couldn’t reach, the women, church groups and ex-combatants in the areas did very good campaigns there. However their votes never showed; plus the votes of my 300+ family in Tinputz. The tally showed that I got little to no votes from there as it seemed the two constituencies block voted for only one candidate.

Then I started to look at how the votes were tallied in each Region. In Central, when it came to boxes 75 – 130, where South and North Nasioi areas are in (where I come from), the PNGEC & OBEC (Office of Bougainville Electrol Commission) staff coordinating the counting stopped doing a call out for our scrutineers to know how much votes each candidate got in an area. Then the PNGEC & OBEC staff just closed the counting, packed all the ballot boxes without letting our scrutineers know the final results, and when the scrutineers enquired they gave excuses like: “there’s no pen marker to write the tally on the yellow canvas or, there’s no printer and ink etc…”

So we followed them to the OBEC office only to be met with more excuses. So from 2:30pm to 9:00pm we stood (in very heavy rain) there at the OBEC office waiting for some answers. They put out the yellow canvas in front of the OBEC office and started jotting numbers down, then in the night they gave us a print out, which to our surprise, one of our candidates numbers exceeded all to 13 thousand plus votes from just 55 ballot boxes, whilst the rest were two thousand less. I collected 1000+ votes from box 1 – 74, which are boxes not from my areas, but when it came to my home turf, I don’t know how the votes went because we candidates just got a print out telling us how many votes we got from Central votes. And now my family, friends and supporters are asking ‘Ol vote blong mipla go we?’

From South, my village in Nagovis there are less than 700 people. Voters would be 250 or less, but to my surprise, 1000+ votes came out from our box, and I got votes, but one particular candidate got 500+ votes from that box. I know it was one day polling and half the people didn’t vote; So What’s happening???? Where are these votes coming from?

Now it has dawned on me. These are the same questions supporters of candidates in the last Autonomous Bougainville Government election were asking; ‘OL VOTE BLONG MIPLA GO WE?’ Candidates they voted for especially in the Presidential and some special seats did not collect a single vote in their supporters areas. Many people in some of these areas have shared their sentiments and I begin to wonder, ‘Is our electrol process transparent? Have peoples votes been tampered with? Are our elected leaders voted into power in a clean way? Well I’m not a judge, but I am a journalist and an excellent researcher. I work with evidence and data, and from what I’ve collected, there is something very fishy going on.

Remember, Bougainville is a small island and we have family and friends everywhere, and for them to come show me their painted fingers and tell me straight to my face that they voted for me but I got no votes from their particular boxes, especially in the West Coast areas, I ask again, ‘What is happening. Where are these peoples votes??????’
Well all in all, people must know that majority of women in Bougainville did vote for me but where are their votes? Though it was one day polling and not many people voted, reports from presiding officers said, nearly all polling booths from North to South, more women went to vote than man. Now my question lies, ‘where are our votes?’ Women fellowship groups, of all denominations will not lie.

I’m writing this piece plus more to come because I know next year we will have another PNG National Election and I don’t ever want to hear voters asking the question ‘OL VOTE BLONG MIPLA GO WE?’ and to prepare those who will be stand to be cautious and protect your votes. I over trusted the system and the system has failed my mothers, sisters and supporters. But I have also trusted God wholly and His Word says, ‘…Whatever is hidden will be shouted on the roof tops.’ And the shouting has just began.


More to come, data to be published. ‘OUR TIME IS NOW!’ Esther 4:14.”

Note: this article represents the view of Llane Munau. It’s not objective. That should be kept in perspective. Nevertheless, if these claims are true it is a serious cause for concern. If almost 100% of the votes for the referendum was counted, why is it that elections should have missing votes?

Academia Nomad is republished Llane’s story with her permission. Part 2 will be published later.

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Solving PNG’s 27, 000 Student Problem: Online Learning & Open Campuses


“The greater evil is not that we are losing the best population of this generation: 27, 000 or so each year. But maintaining the status quo when we can do something about it now so the next 27, 000 don’t miss out…” Academia Nomad

There has been so much said about the 27, 000 students missing out of selection to PNG tertiary institutions. Views vary: some blame students for not investing time in their studies (so called boom-box generation), others blame COVID-19 and related disruptions, whilst others make the case for students who meet the GPA (grade point average) or entry requirements but still miss out on selection. Views of the last group, who argue for students missing out despite meeting the GPA should trouble the nation. As argued earlier in Academia Nomad’s article “Exclusive Club with low quality: trends in PNG tertiary institutions”, the first two arguments don’t hold water. You can only blame the boom-box generation after all the students have been selected and there’s still spaces available but no one is qualified to be selected. At the moment, masses of students miss out even when they qualify. Second, the problem of qualified students missing out on selection predates COVID-19, so you cannot blame COVID-19. Students have been missing out before COVID-19, and they will continue to miss out after COVID-19 is gone, unless the capacity of universities and colleges are increased. 

To solve the 27, 000 problem is not easy and can’t be done overnight. It will need massive investment in infrastructure, ICT, improvements in staffing conditions etc. Basically, the PNG tertiary sector’s capacity needs to be increased three times. Currently it takes in 9, 000. To take in the 27, 000 (27, 000/9 = 3), it needs three times more than the current capacity. 

Alternatively, PNG institutions can take the courses online, and increase satellite institutions or Open Campuses. PNG is entering a stage where these two initiatives are not only preferable, but imminent. It has to begin now, so the next 27, 000 students don’t miss out next year. And these two proposals  are relatively cheaper than building another university.

Open Campuses 

Open Campuses are small branches of universities established in the provinces with limited capacities.  They provide preliminary courses/subjects, and act as a pathway into universities. The conditions and efficiencies of these campuses are not known, but the general perception is that they are redundant, or ineffective, understaffed, under resourced, and don’t always deliver their promise as pathways to universities. 

This doesn’t mean the Open Campuses are therefore a failed concept. Those in cities, such as UPNG’s NCD Open Campus opposite the main UPNG Campus operates relatively well, giving many students access to UPNG main campus. Students can even attain a Diploma in Accounting just by attending Open Campus which is the equivalent to two years studies at the main campus. They have the choice to either continue studies as third year students at the main campus or graduate and go out and work. Divine Word has similar campuses, with the one in Port Moresby offering advanced subjects as well. Unitech offers DODL, but it’s more like code/FODE.

PNG tertiary institutions can assess what is working for their Open Campuses in the main Centre’s and duplicate them in the provinces. Offer good salaries, employment conditions, and improve the infrastructure for Open Campuses at the provincial level. The National Government should make this it’s priority. Students can complete Diplomas in their provinces. A lot more students would opt for this arrangement as boarding and lodging fees at the universities and colleges are very expensive. Also, this will open the door for public servants in the provinces to upgrade their skills. They don’t have to resign from their jobs to pursue studies in Port Moresby, Lae, Madang or Goroka. More importantly, it will account for the majority of the 27, 000 students missing out on selection.

I’m not a fan of the government loan: HELP. But to make any meaning out of HELP, education must be made available to the masses – the ‘extra’ 27, 000 students. Otherwise, the government is spending massive taxpayers money on very few privileged groups.

Online Learning 

The Open Campus concept can be complemented by either blended learning or full online learning. Online learning is basically education that takes place over the Internet. It is often referred to as “e- learning” among other terms. However, online learning is just one type of “distance learning” – the umbrella term for any learning that takes place across distance and not in a traditional classroom.

The so-called “boom-box generation” is also the most internet savvy generation this country has ever had. Great nations don’t always have the most resources, or the best circumstances, or luck. They look at their limitations and make very strategic choices. Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan etc., don’t have gold and copper and silver. They’re not islands of gold floating on sea of oil, the overused term that is associated with PNG. These are countries full of limitations. You can go back to 1945 – 1953 and South Korea was probably in a more dire situation than PNG. The WWII and the Korean War devastated almost every infrastructure, nascent industries, demoralized the population, and left massive dead bodies. And they built it up from scratch. PNG has to look at its circumstances, and use it to its advantage. If the kids are hooked to their phones, bring education to their phones.

The Coral Sea Cable, a 4700 km  underwater internet cable linking Sydney to Port Moresby will drastically increase the internet connectivity and speed in PNG. Now is the time to take education online. 

This is where we are: 27, 000 students missing out on selection; very expensive boarding and lodging fees; an internet savvy population who are stuck to their phones. Let’s change the way we do education. We can do that by going online, improving access by establishing more and better open campuses, and offering Certificates and Diplomas online or at the open campuses.

Not everyone wants a degree. Some just need an introduction into the main theories and current practices in the fields they are interested in. Some just want to learn the basics. For these people, offer diplomas and certificates online as well as at the open campuses. With the internet age, they’ll take it from there and become self-taught experts. Keep the degrees and MAs and PhDs at the universities for those who want to pursue them, and those who could afford them or have the temperament to get HELP loans and repay them forever.

My appeal to the Prime Minister, Minister for Education and Ministry for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology:

Sirs, we are losing the best population of this generation: 27, 000 each year. The greater evil is not that they are missing out, but the fact that they don’t have to miss out if we act now. Decentralize education. Take it online, and take it to the people in the provinces. For a time such as this were you put in such high places, make it count.

Academia Nomad has published several articles related to this topic. To read previous article check the links below:

  1. Exclusive Club but low quality: trends in PNG tertiary education sector 
  2. Not selected? Four ways to pursue studies in PNG 

God bless you all and take care…

PNG’s Student Loans: Recurring Problems Since 2001

Student loans are not new to PNG, it was implemented as the Tertiary Education Student Assistance Scheme (TESAS) between 2001 and 2007. About 7, 000 students borrowed money from the state, but only ONE woman repaid her loan! The government went to the extent of listing more than 3, 000 names in the newspapers and appealed to the public to assist in identifying those who got loans, and their guarantors but none responded. In total, the government spent K6. 6 million ($2.5 million). Last year, the government budget was K230 million ($49.3 million). About 10, 000 students are said to have borrowed varying amounts, but it is not clear how much of the K230 million has been borrowed.

The big question is: has the government learnt the lessons of 2001 – 2007? Moses Sakai has written two excellent articles on the history of student loans in PNG, and the recurring defects in this new Higher Education Loan Program (see article 1 here and article 2 here). 

The recurring problems are as follows:

  1. In the TESAS era, there was no clear timeframe for loan repayment. Under HELP, there’s no clear timeframe on when the students repay their loans. It states that a graduate that starts working and earns K462 will have 10% of his/her salary automatically deducted (if less than K462 they don’t pay). This scenario assumes that the student has formal employment upon graduation. But how about those who are not employed? What happens if the graduate’s salary remains under the minimum threshold for years?
  1. If the graduate fails to repay the loans, the guarantors would repay the loan. Guarantors are either parents, siblings, wantoks etc., who agree to repay the loan if the student fails to repay in the future. There are countless uncertainties: what happens if the guarantors retires, resigns, is bankrupt, etc., and the graduate fails to repay? When guarantors were contacted after the cohorts of 2001 – 2007 failed to repay the TESAS loans, the guarantors refused to pay. What happens if that happens again?
  1. The graduate is required to notify DHERST and their employer that they have a student loan. Can self-accountability work?

There are other related issues that make the HELP contentious:

1. DHERST initially (2019/2020) stated that GPA is the primary requirement for those applying for loan. This is because graduates with high GPA have better employment opportunities, thus improves the chances of loan repayment. However, the government pushed an alternative narrative and succeeded: that students should not be discriminated against based on their GPA. Assuming DHERST was right, and weak students don’t get jobs after graduation, loan repayment will become an issue.

2. The logic that guarantors should repay the loan is interesting: The reason why students are going for HELP in the first place is because their wantoks cannot help them now. Requiring the same wantoks to repay if the graduates fail to repay is a silly logic.

3. There is a possibility that this may all be political and no loans will be repaid: Let’s look at government decisions on education since 2019. First Marape declared that he would eliminate free education from prep to secondary school level, and focus on providing assistance via HELP for higher education only. Outcry, especially on social media led to a change in position. Now it’s subsidized education. Second, he announced that HECAS & AES programs would be eliminated and replaced by HELP (students with high GPA quality for the AES whilst students below AES quality for HECAS – both are government scholarships). Due to public outcry, the government retained AES/HECAS alongside HELP in 2020. What happens if thousands refuse to repay the student loans? We might see more changing of goalposts.

4. The USA and Australia are some countries that PNG can learn from. Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiligtz equates the student loans in the US to the housing bubble that led to the 2008 economic crisis. The access to finance and the promised benefits is enticing. But with a limited market for those graduating, it runs the risk of a bubble.

5. Predatory for-profit institutions. In both Australia and the US, many profit oriented institutions enter the higher education space because they want to make money off from student loans. These institutions provide low quality qualifications for profit, and students and the state struggle later: students struggle to find jobs with poor qualifications, and the state struggles to get back its money.

With about 20, 000 students excluded from the formal system in PNG every year, private institutions will pop-up everywhere to serve this segment. Students who cannot pay for their fees will go for the HELP funds,  but will the pop-up private institutions provide credible qualifications? 

Now that’s a critic of the government’s HELP program. For parents and students, HELP is something you should give some thought to. 


Student loan is a burden, and if not careful, it will be like a rock chained to your leg, that you have to drag up the ladder in the most productive stage of your life. Below are scenarios you ought to know before you and your parents decide whether to get these loans, and how much to get.

The student completes a four years bachelor degree and gets a job. The repayment is tied to your income (income based repayment): your first pay will have at least two deductions – normal taxes paid by anyone with a job,  as well as the automatic 10% deduction to repay your student loans if you earn K462 per fortnight. Below are how the US and Australian Governments structured student loan repayments:

A. A minimum income threshold is set so that graduates earning low incomes delay their repayments (below for PNG K462). However, because graduates with a university degree are most likely to start earning higher wages (than K462 for PNG) they will not be exempted from either taxes or repayments, from the very first pay.

B. Beyond the threshold, the graduate pays progressively higher rates. The higher your income, the higher the taxes and deductions for student loan repayments. This becomes a real impediment to the desire to work hard and climb up the ladder.

C. Future commercial loans for business etc.: One of the non-compromising conditions of the commercial banks is to ask whether the individual has outstanding loans. Any graduate with student loans will have to deal with this challenge (perhaps except for SME funds).

D. For the state: What if the graduates do not repay and debts start to accumulate? Student loans in the US alone is a staggering $1.7 trillion (K6 trillion plus in PNG currency).

Proposed solution for Government to consider

Instead of providing loans, improve the existing scholarships. The current scholarship has AES, which is for the very high achieving students, and HECAS for those below that. Introduce a third category to make it three:

  1. Full scholarship for students with very high GPA (the students within the current AES category should make up this category, but this time they pay nothing). It’s a reward system. The harder your work, the better the reward.
  1. AES – the AES category should be filled with students currently under HECAS.
  1. HECAS – the minimum GPA for HECAS should be reduced to accommodate more students. 

This system should not be limited to the National Government. Provincial and District MPs who use portions of  their DSIP & PSIP funds for school fees should also structure it this way. Reward is the key. It makes people work. You get to allocate resources to those that deserve it. 

Message to Parents and Wantoks

If you can pay, pay for your child. You have done it before. Or at least let your child get half loan, you pay half. Crowdfunding that works in the Highlands is a great system. Someone from your tribe goes to university, takes pride, contribute and pay his/her school fees. If there’s money for bride price and contribution for the dead, there should be money for the living child.

If you cannot afford higher education fees, get the loan and study very hard. Get a good job and repay the loans.

Two related articles on higher education published by Academia Nomad that you may want to look up are:

  1. Student Loans, Chained Careers: The Other Perspective (2020)
  1. Exclusive Club but low quality? Trends in PNG Higher Education (2021)

You can follow Academia Nomad on the Academia Nomad Facebook page, as well as subscribing to this site (blog). 

May 2021 be the great year for you.

2021 New Year Resolution: Incremental Change

Incremental change

I want to personally thank all of you who have subscribed, follow, comment and like Academia Nomad blog posts. This is the time of the year when people make resolutions for the next 365 days. I wanted to share with you a TED Talk video that may help you with your goals for 2021. This video has 9 million views on YouTube. Enjoy.

Click on YouTube link below:

It was challenging but we made it through. Take care you all. God bless.

Exclusive Club but low quality? Trend in PNG tertiary institutions

PNG’s tertiary institutions are becoming an exclusive club of the few, as the rest are pushed out of the system. However, with a dropping quality, the qualification will not mean much if there’s no investment. It’s the same as placing a limit (quota) on imported goods. Prices of products go up not because of the quality of the products, but because of the limited quantity or supply.

Limited supply of any product, be it apples or degrees drives up demand for the product. Even if the quality is poor. On the other hand, if supply increases, the only way a product stands out of the competition is for the producers to innovate to improve the quality of the product.

How is this relevant to higher education in PNG? Over the years, more and more students have been pushed out of the formal education system, especially the higher education sector. But the government fails to invest in higher education. If this trend continues, in the long run, the value of university degrees and certificates will be based on the fact that there are few degree holders in the market, and not because the degree holders possess superior skills than others. This is the path that selection to PNG universities and other tertiary institutions are taking.

For the 2021 academic year, only 9, 000 grade 12 students out of the 27, 000 were selected. Though Higher Education Secretary Jan Czuba blames those on COVID-19, this blame is clearly misplaced for two reasons: first, the high number of students missing out on selection is a recurring problem. Back in 2015, only 4, 700 students were selected out of the 23, 000. Things somewhat improved and in 2019 about 8, 597 students were selected whilst the rest missed out. Large number of students missing out on selection is a trend in PNG, so blaming COVID-19 diverts attention from the main problem in the tertiary institutions of PNG.

Second, many students didn’t get selected despite meeting the GPA this year. For instance, to study law at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), the only law school in PNG, students need a GPA of 3.0. But because the school has only 120 spaces available, hundreds of students miss out on selection with a GPA of 3.0. For Political Science at UPNG, students with GPA of 3.8 missed out even though the actual GPA is 2.7. There are only 30 spaces. Selection begins with students with GPA of 4.0, and the quota is usually full before the advertised GPA is reached. A substantial number of students missed out due to the quota system in universities and colleges. The students worked hard despite havoc caused by COVID-19 and still missed out. That’s a big let down.

Others on social media are blaming poor student attitudes towards studies as a result of poor performance and low selection. This is true to some extent. However, many students missed out on selection despite meeting the GPA because the tertiary institutions do not have the capacity to take them in. The poor performance by students should be a subject of debate only after every eligible student was selected, and extra space left. But if our tertiary institutions do not have the capacity to accommodate students who meet the required GPA, placing blame on students is also another misplaced blame.

Now that’s for those kids who missed out on selection. What about the 9, 000 who were selected?

With deteriorating infrastructure and lack of investment in higher education, the quality of education in PNG is not getting any better. In fact, the top three universities in PNG (UPNG, Unitech, and DWU) are ranked 5, 047; 5, 732; and 11, 194 respectively in world university ranking. University of South Pacific in Fiji is 5, 000 places higher than DWU on 1, 575, whilst Australian National University ranks 24th in the world, as the best in the region. Our universities rank very low, our infrastructure is poor, which adversely affects the quality of higher education in PNG.

In 2009, Professor Ross Garnaut and former PNG Prime Minister Rabbie Namilu were tasked by the PNG and Australian governments to carry out a study and report on the state of PNG higher education. This is a quote from the report:

“Papua New Guinea’s universities made a significant contribution to the nation in its early years. They can do so again but, right now, the quantity and quality of graduates is far short of what is needed – due to inadequate resources and a range of governance and general service quality issues.”

Nine years later, in 2018, the University of Papua New Guinea didn’t select any student from the Science Foundation Year to the Medical Faculty. The reason was: none of the students from the foundation year who applied for the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) met the required GPA of 3.5. UPNG vice chancellor at the time, Vincent Malibe said:

“We could not lower the bar just to pass those 60 people. We said ‘no’. It’s unethical, we are dealing with lives.”

This is how it works: for any science field offered by UPNG, you apply as a Science Foundation Year (SFY) student. You then apply to get into different specialized fields, including School of Medicine. But to get into the School of Medicine you need a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher in the first year of study as a SFY student (first year). In 2018, no student met the required GPA for the first time in the university’s history. This was a red sign pointing to the diminishing quality of education in one of the main universities in PNG. We didn’t take notice. We still haven’t taken notice yet.

If the same requirement as those set by the School of Medicine was applied to all fields of study in PNG universities, substantial number of students would be dropped in the first year of study.

The lack of investment in ICT, library, infrastructure and essential equipment required of a modern university affects the quality of education in PNG universities. When quality is lost, the value of the degrees and certificates obtained in PNG universities will be determined by how many students we eliminate out of the system during selection. If you keep eliminating 18, 000 students in PNG, you will create a scarcity, and that drives up the value of the degree the 9, 000 students get upon graduation.

What should be done?

There are six performance indicators used to measure university rankings (QS World University Ranking). They are as follows:

  1. Academic reputation (40%) – a global survey of more than 94,000 academics
  2. Citations per faculty (20%) – a ‘citation’ means a piece of research being referred to (cited) within another piece of research.
  3. Student-to-faculty ratio (20%) – the number of academic staff employed relative to the number of students enrolled
  4. Employer reputation (10%) – a global survey of close to 45,000 graduate employers
  5. International faculty ratio (5%)
  6. International student ratio (5%)

Some of these indicators are beyond PNG’s immediate reach, but a varied form of three of the criteria can be achieved.

First, expand the capacity of PNG higher education so that every student who is eligible is selected, and improve conditions of academics to attract more (and better) academics and instructors. No student who meets the required GPA should miss out because of limited space (and the consequent quota system). Indicators 2, 5 and 6 can be attained by improving the employment conditions for the lecturers.

Second, invest in Infrastructure and ICT: invest into infrastructure and modern ICT for our universities and colleges. Criteria 6 can be achieved by investment in these areas.

Third, upgrade the courses/subjects offered. We need to benchmark the courses offered in our universities with the best in the region. Look at Singapore, Australia and New Zealand universities, and benchmark (upgrade) our courses. Again, criteria 6 can be achieved by improving curriculum.

Fourth, a lecturer that is employed must be required to conduct a specified minimum number of researches, publications and present papers at conferences. Contract renewals and promotions should strictly be based on these three requirements. Those who rely on outdated information, never published in the last three years should be shown the door at the end of their contract. Lecturers must be teaching current and relevant content, and that comes from research. Citations (criteria 2) is not possible unless academics start publishing.

Finally, there is a very flawed argument advanced by critics of mass education that we produce too many graduates who do not have jobs. Three reasons why there should be more students selected to universities:

1. We need an educated population. Our adult average education is four years, the lowest in the region and comparable to that of sub-Saharan Africa. We are among the least literate countries in the world, and we cannot be excluding more and more students. Being the least literate is not a record to be proud of, and yet we work hard at maintaining that record by excluding 18, 000 in 2020!

2. More students would create competition and make students work harder. Because the only way a graduate would stand out among masses of people with the same qualification is to be the best. It’s the same as flooding a market with three brands of phones: Samsung, Huawei, and iPhone. To have a competitive edge in the market, these brands must constantly engage in innovation. Competition among these three brands for market share will drive innovation, giving customers the choice to select among three great brands. If you only allow one brand into the market by restricting the other two, that brand will have no incentive to innovate because it is the only option available (monopoly). The same applies to the quota system used in selections in the long run.

3. Education is not always about getting employed. Education has other benefits: you will sell your land cheap to foreigners because you were not educated. That’s a real possibility. The quality of your health is intrinsically linked with the information you are exposed to, information you have greater exposure to if you were educated. The chances that your children may do well in life is improved if you’re educated. We need an education population regardless of whether there are enough jobs.

There is so much rhetoric about ‘Take Back PNG.’ You don’t do that at the expense of 18, 000 kids. And the 9, 000 we will rely on to make PNG the so-called richest black Christian nation need quality education.

Bryan Kramer: 2019 vs 2020

PNG Minister for Police and MP for Madang Open, Bryan Kramer

In August 2019, the Guardian Online News paper ran a story about the Police Commissioner of PNG and MP for Madang Bryan Kramer. The title read:

“…Meet Bryan Kramer, Papua New Guinea’s anti-corruption tsar…”

The subtitle called Kramer a “a rising star in Pacific islands politics…”

Such praise was not uncommon for Kramer. Kramer was a star, if a star is means having the largest followers on social media – Facebook. Tsars were the monarchs of Eastern Europe. It is not clear why the Guardian equated Kramer to the supreme rulers of Eastern Europe. The last Russian Tsar was from the House of Ramanovs, and he was killed: but not for fighting corruption. He was killed during the Russian Revolution of 1917, which ushered in the Communist party Bolsheviks, led by Lenin.

Perhaps the Guardian intended to say he was this epitome of anti-corruption. If there was an emperor of anti-corruption, it would be this no nonsense corruption fighter, who was willing to die fighting corruption.

They were correct to call Kramer a rising star though. Bryan Kramer is rockstar of online political movement in the Pacific. He arguably has more followers on his Facebook page the ‘Kramer Report’ than any other Papua New Guinean from any walk of life. That includes musicians, sports personalities, and wannabe celebrities in PNG. By 2019, his posts were reaching hundreds of shares, and thousands of reactions (likes, hearts, etc.) in less than 24 hours. Facebook care reaction was introduced later on, had it been introduced earlier, there would be thousands expressing their concern/care.

Also by his own admission, people from Solomon Islands follow him. So he is a Pacific star. But his stardom began at home: PNG.

Much of his popularity has to do with his opposition against the O’Neil Government between 2012 and 2019. His anti-corruption fight began before he entered parliament in 2017. The high point was probably when he was jailed at the Boroko Police Station in Port Moresby, following complaints laid by former Madang Open MP Nixon Duban’s father against Kramer. Duban was in Peter O’Neill’s government, and he also defeated Kramer in the 2012 elections for Madang Open.

That’s the past. Kramer has been in government for more than a year now. Is Kramer still popular after one year in the government? Below are two sets of 5 screenshots. First set of screen shots shows Bryan Kramer’s article about lawyer Greg Shepard, who filed a complaint against Bryan Kramer regarding social media publication by Kramer, who Shepard argued was amounted to defamation under the Cyber law of PNG. The first picture is a screen shot of the original article (showing only the first part of the article). The other 5 screen shots show replies/comments to the article. This is followed by another article posted this evening (December 2020), which is accompanied by 5 screenshots containing replies/comments on a short article by Kramer concerning the Supreme Court ruling against the Marape Government, of which Kramer is an integral member, and Minister. The ruling declared Government MPs’ parliament sitting on 17 November 2020 without opposition MPs as invalid, nullifying all decisions taken that day. Including the K19. 6 billion budget. Interestingly, the lawyer representing the case was Greg Shepard.

Both sets of screenshots (2019 article and 2020 article) are related to Kramer & Shepard. But they are one year apart.

Back to the question: Is Kramer still the anti-corruption Tsar? Or is the tide changing against the political star? How do Papua New Guinean view him today? Let’s see their comments.

Firs set of screenshots: This is a screenshot of the first article posted on 20 November 2019….

A snapshot of Comments from PNG Facebook community:

These comments gives you an idea of what the Gurdian was referring to. Kramer was a star, not only of the work he did, but also a star among Papua New Guineans. They loved him.

Now let’s see the second set of comments responding to his most recent post. The first screenshot is his original post on 10 December 2020:

A snapshot of Comments from Papua New Guinea Facebook community:

There you go. Five screenshots of comments from each post, one year apart. You will find this consistency:

An overwhelming majority in support of almost every single article Kramer wrote up till the pandemic (COVID-19) entered PNG in March 2019. After COVID-19, and especially after the November 2020 debacles on both sides on PNG parliament, you will find comments similar to the second set of screenshots.

Time will tell whether the rise of Kramer to stardom, driven by love form PNG Facebook community, will become the same means by which he will loose popularity.

Just one question to readers: why do you think Kramer (The Scientist) seems to be getting more negative reactions now than before?

Comment below and let us know. We may probably write part two of the article based on what you think the reasons are…