Dr. Albert Schram – Government says he has visa problems 

Three weeks into the first term of the school year,   fresh calls are being made for the return of  Dr. Albert Schram, as Vice Chancellor of  the University of Technology. 
A  staff member and  parent have   called on the government to allow  Dr. Schram return  to the university.
Dr. Schram has not been allowed  back into the country even after an investigation cleared him of  several allegations that questioned his qualifications.
By  December,  it will have been three years since the  Schram-Unitech Issue  began
Today,  Ken Polun,  a staff member who began working at the University in 1991, he says Schram is a solution to Untech’s longstanding problems.   
“Schram is not a threat,” Polun said. “He may be a threat to some people.”
Unitech is being managed by an interim council appointed after  an intervention by the   national government.  Prime minister, Peter O’neill visited the university in January  at the height of the crisis in the hope of putting the matter to rest.  His visit came after students boycotted class and demanded Schram’s return.
Later, an investigation team  headed by retired judge justice Mark Sevua was appointed  to probe   several issues including allegations over Dr. Schram’s qualifications. 
At the end of January one year after the PM’s visit,  the  interim council, headed by Sir Nagora Bogan,  released a statement pointing out that the investigating team had cleared Dr. Schram of all allegations and that he should be allowed back to resume his post.
The lack of action has also brought renewed concerns from parents.
            “Our children’s education is very important,” says Aaron Boski, whose son has just entered Unitech as a freshmen.  “We want Dr. Schram returned.”
Dr. Schram’s troubles begun  after he  questioned  certain payments  from the university accounts and asked for  the recommendations from previous investigations to be implemented. 
The Bogan interim council says the allegations against Schram  were baseless  and it called on all parties to put aside their own self interests  and restore credibility to the university.


Papua New Guinea’s Prime  Minister, Peter O’Neill,  has told  minsters, provincial governors and heads of departments  at a Port Moresby  leader’s summit that failure is not an option in  the implementation of the 2014 budget.

Speaking in Port Moresby,  O’Neill    said the patience  and tolerance of Papua New Guineans might eventually be exhausted if  the government fails to deliver.  The summit  follows on from  a budget strategy meeting  which was held  at about the same time last year.

The Prime Minister’s   presence at the  meeting was meant to  affirm the importance of the task ahead.  The government has just 10 months  left to implement a record 15 billion kina   budget passed in November last year.

While there have been some improvement in statistics,    in the last 12 months, there are   major challenges ahead.   Speaking this morning after the Prime Minister, Finance Minister James Marape, said  school enrollment percentages had  risen from a little over 60 percent to  75 percent.

But critics of the government point to the stark reality that the classrooms have become overcrowded with  a disturbing ratio of one teacher for every  60 students.

      Steven Mesa, a parent and board member of the Lae Secondary school in Morobe  says it is  affecting  education standards.

“For a science class of 50 to 60 students in a 40 minute period,  students get less that a minute of the teacher’s attention.”

The last 12 months have also  been a period of learning for the government.  Policy makers learned that districts  and local level governments lack the capacity  to use the large amounts of funding being injected to the districts.  The government also learned the hard lesson of being overly dependent on mineral revenue after a drop in gold prices caused revenue projections to drop and put many mine workers out of  their jobs.

The Prime Minister stressed the importance of   having a diversified economy – an economy  that is not heavily dependent on  mining and petroleum.

In many respects,  PM was  echoing sentiments shared  by commentators and critics of the  former Somare government,  who  said  Papua New Guinea should  build its agriculture and manufacturing sectors  and create economies of scale.

    The Prime Minister is allowing no room implementation  failure.   But much of the implementation hinges of the  civil service – the government’s implementation mechanism which  has not always worked in the past.


Neknasi coffee  farmer, Halimbi Gim

Another cooperative  in the Nawaeb District of the Morobe Province  is working to develop fresh food supply chain starting with farmers in  the Wain-Erap Local Level Government area.
Kasuka is following in the footsteps of Neknasi – a coffee cooperative that is  close to building its own coffee processing mill.
The villages who make up the Kasuka fresh food cooperative  are  tucked away in the mountains of the Wain Erap LLG.  Although this place can supply Lae with  a  relatively large amount of food to Lae and the rest of PNG,  road access and transportation have  always  been  a major obstacle to their success.
A team of volunteers led by Pandi Nogatu have  been working  on developing a  cooperative based fresh food supply chain.  It has been a long journey.
“Roads are the biggest obstacle,” Says Nogatu. “our food goes bad just because we wait for too long.”
The group experimented with rice, corn and other vegetables.   They’ve been slowly finding their way.  With increased government funding to the districts,    the Nawaeb administration has  been able to buy the cooperative a new vehicle. 
This will cut down on transport costs and the time it usually  takes  to get from  the  inner reaches of the Wain Erap area to Lae City.
            Nawaeb MP, Gisuat Siniwin whose village also has limited road access says the cooperatives will sell fruit and vegetables to big clients like mining companies.
            “We’ve advised the people to develop a corporative out of  what they already have.”
Kasuka  cooperative  is  learning from another example – the Neknasi Coffee cooperative  featured last year on EMTV’s Tok Piksa program.  
Working closely with Fairtrade International, Neknasi  will soon get certification as an organic coffee grower.  Michael Toliman who provides advice to  Neknasi   says cooperatives need  to be encouraged because  they  empower  Papua New Guineans.
“In order to sell large volumes,  you need a steady supply.  Cooperatives are very important.”
Neknasi and Kasuka will be building a coffee mill and a fresh food  depot in Erap.  Nekasi has  the aim of becoming a leader in coffee exports out of Morobe  and Kasuka aims to become  the leading fresh food depot in Morobe.


Leatherback hatchlings

Several  communities in one coastal province of Papua New Guinea have taken a local approach to  solving  a global  environmental concern.

In the North Coast villages of  Madang, elders are educating  children about the importance of protecting the  endangered leatherback turtle.
Today, a new generation of kids  are growing up with an awareness of the  importance of co-existence  with creatures,  that  come to nest  where they play.
On a black sandy  beach  about a kilometer from Tokain village along Madang’s North Coast,    members of the  environment committee  are inspecting  a new  nest.  A few nights  ago, a leatherback turtle  laid  about a hundred eggs here.  The night before, rough seas, swept away the  small bamboo grid placed  on the nest  to protect  it.
The chairman of the environment  committee, Jacob Wamber,  has taken  on the personal responsibility  of caring for it.  Like other members of the community, he’s worried that the eggs won’t hatch because of the rough weather. 
“We used to eat the turtle,” he says. “People would wait on the beach   and kill the leatherbacks as they came to nest.
Leatherback turtles,   are among  the giants of the sea. They grow up to  two meters in length  and can weigh as much as a small car.   They are   also among the earth’s oldest inhabitants   living largely unchanged for more than 100 million years.
But  human beings  became  dominant   in earth’s history,   we as a species contributed to  the  reduction of up to 90 percent of   leatherback turtles.
Until about  five years ago,   the leatherback was a  highly prized delicacy  for the Jacob’s people.   But   growing awareness  on the plight of the Leatherback,  communities along the North coast of Madang made the decision to stop killing  them and harvesting their eggs.
“When we  we learnt that  their numbers were in decline and we were contributing that. So we started protecting them,” Says Jacob.
Yat Paol is  a member of a small organization that has taken on the responsibility of educating  the young.  For Yat, this is an important responsibility.
“We’re teaching the young that leatherbacks  aren’t just on this planet to be our food.  They are part of our biodiversity and they have their place and we have to respect that.”
Many of  the younger kids  have only heard stories and seen pictures of the Leatherback or “Didu”  in the local language.  Yat says  it only shows how rare the leatherback has become.    The people have been made aware  that the leatherback has a story   – a story about a long journey  from its nesting site  on the North Coast of  Madang  to Central America, Asia, Hawaii. 
While the  awareness of the science and need for conservation may not appeal the people here, the story about the leatherback  is one that resonates with them.   Like their own long rich  history,  they’re seeing a parallel  in the story of the leatherback… one that is largely  silent and untold.