ENGA’S FREE EDUCATION INVESTMENT PRODUCING FINANCIAL RETURNS

“You should ask how much money is coming into the BSP Bank…” – Enga Administrator, Dr. Samson Amean

At the Kipuli Memorial Primary School outside of Wabag town, a class of youngsters sit for a test.
This is one of the many schools in Enga province that have benefited from the Enga Provincial Government’s free education policy.
The free education policy has come with its own challenges. In the last 20 years, enrollment has tripled. There are, now, more students in classrooms than in 1997. It is putting a strain on the existing infrastructure.
But the provincial government has been driving infrastructure development parallel with the enrollment increases.
“We used to have 22 teachers,” Says Ili Ratu, head teacher of the Primary School.
Kipuli Memorial Primary is a demonstration school used by the neighboring Enga Teacher’s College. It’s where trainee teachers come to gain practical experience.
From the primary school, you can see the evidence of the infrastructure development at the teacher’s college – a new dormitory and a new administration building. Recently, the Enga Provincial Government partnered with the Institute of Business Studies to open a campus on the premises of the college.
Several kilometers away, at Sopas Nursing School, there is a similar story. The nursing school abandoned because of ongoing tribal fights previously, has been transformed into a learning institution that has brought in some of the best teachers from Papua New Guinea and abroad.
Half the number of students come from other parts of Papua New Guinea. This, putting into action, the province’s dream of making Enga another education hub in Papua New Guinea, just like Madang and Goroka.
“We have 76 students in the first year and another 76 in the second year,” says Principal, Noelyn Koutalo.
“We have a lot of students from other provinces and our governor is encouraging those students to be employed in the province.”
Drawing on its cultural links, Enga and Hela provinces have-co funded the construction of a polytechnic institute what will serve the upper reaches of the highlands. The man behind Enga’s free education policy is Governor, Sir Peter Ipatas. It took 20 years to achieve the success that the province is starting to see.
“We are encouraging students from other provinces to come to Enga,” Sir Peter says.
“Some other their cultural values are good for us. Good for our kids.”
Enga used to be part of the Western Highlands province. When new provincial boundaries were drawn up making Enga a province all to itself, Enga was left with little in terms of infrastructure and education system. The province also suffered from political and administrative instability.
“It has taken us 20 years to build the infrastructure and educate our kids,” says the Governor.
“If you look at the Eastern Highlands, the university alone brings in K50 million a year because you have students from other provinces.
“It’s expensive to send students to other provinces. We want to make Enga a hub.”
Extending beyond the primary and secondary school system, the provincial government is subsidising university education for 8,000 students in tertiary institution. Over 20 years, the results are starting to show. “You should ask ‘how much money is coming into the Wabag post office?’ ‘How much money is coming into the Wabag branch of Bank South Pacific?,” Dr. Samson Amean, Provincial Administrator explains, that while no research has been done yet to qualify the financial returns, the evidence is clear.
A lot more parents are queuing up at the Enga’s only bank to withdraw money sent by products of Enga’s Free Education Policy who are now working in Papua New Guinea and abroad.
The Enga provincial government spends about 40 percent of its development budget on education. It is estimated to be far higher than many other provinces in Papua New Guinea.
Despite the odds, the social sector investment has begun to produce economic benefits.

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HOW ENGA PLANS TO TAKE OVER THE POTATO MARKET

Talum Research Station

Until a few years ago,  the Talum High Altitude Research Station in Enga province   was fully operational drawing scientists from  all  over the country  to the province.

 A longstanding feud between two clans put an end to the station’s operations. A nearby school was  burnt  and other  government infrastructure  destroyed.   The  previous  events  added to the external perception of  Enga  as a  lawless province  with ongoing flare ups of tribal warfare.
Carrots produced in Enga

The Enga province has been working hard to  shake off that  image and bring in new economic investment.  The Provincial Administrator, Dr. Samson Amean  admits  tribal fighting remains an ongoing problem but points out that  change  is happening.

 “People are tired of tribal fights,” he says. “You know, we had the first contact with foreigners in the 1930s.
Dr. Samson Amean – Provincial Administrator
 “We are way behind other parts of  Papua New Guinea. We have to  run to catch up and sometimes we will stumble. That’s how best I can describe Enga  for you.”
 The provincial government is  now working  to rebuild the station  with investment worth K23 million. It’s a 50-50 joint venture with   Israeli company Innovative Agro Industries which brings with it experience in large scale agricultural production.
Sandis Tsaka – Deputy Provincial Administrator

In the provincial capital of Wabag,  they were introduced to members of the Provincial Executive Council  (PEC).  While a seemingly insignificant, the PEC is made up of  clan leaders  who have  considerable influence over the  some of the clans who involved in the tribal fights.  They’ve also come to understand the importance of high level foreign investment coupled  with a 50 percent  provincial government investment which they own through political representation.

Sir Peter Ipatas – Enga Governor
 “The government is trying to invest into agricultural commodities that provide an economic sustenance for our people,” says the  Deputy Administrator for Economic Sector, Sandis Tsaka.
 “Investing in vegetables  as  cash crops  is now a really big thing and the partnership with the Israelis gives us the opportunity  to invest in the staple food crops already being farmed by our farmers.”
Member of the farming communities who will benefit from the project

Unlike neighboring  Western Highlands,  the availability of good agricultural  land  is limited.  The focus  of this project is to use the technology and skills  brought by the Israelis to produce high yielding crops that can be exported.

 “We aim to take over 100 percent of the market share of potatoes,” says Enga Governor  Sir Peter Ipatas.  “We want to reduce the import of potatos to a point where all the potatoes come from our farms in Enga.”
 The  company will create a nucleus agriculture estate able to produce 1000 tons of food  per harvest cycle.  An additional 1200 tons  will be produced by farmers from 320 households  with technical support from  the Israelis.
 The expected tonnage  from farmers translates to K2million  per harvest cycle being put directly into the hands of  Engan farmers.

who currently  compete with the food production volume  coming out of the neighboring  Western Highlands. This arrangement eliminates the freight and cost burden faced by individual farmers.