“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. The 35th President of America, John Fitzgerald “Jack” Kennedy said this during his inaugural address on January 20, 1961. Commonly referred to by his initials JFK, he was an outstanding American politician who served as President from January, 1961 until his assassination in November, 1963.
Fifty five (55) years on and the world over continue to embrace and delve in the rationale of this great speech often buttress in acts of patriotism and civism.
At the peak of the country’s 41st Independence, many Papua New Guineans are celebrating not only about what the country has done for them but importantly about what they too have contributed for the country. One such of a patriot is Thomas Ganu Phillar, a highly esteemed local entrepreneur from the Hela province.
From a humble beginning three years ago, Thomas had started the Asia Pacific Institute of Applied Social, Economic and Technical Studies (APIASETS) situated along the Maple street at Hohola in the National Capital District. His conviction has been to do something about the increasing number of school leavers every year in PNG. In March, 2016, for example, the education department recorded more than 22,000 grade 12 school leavers. Of which only 5-6,000 of them find placing in universities and tertiary institutions while the rest missed out.
Pop ups, mushrooms, and sprouting of private schools and institutions around the country, he argues therefore come handy and pivotal in the making to address the escalating school “drop out” problem which he says, “is a time bomb” which can be devastating to the country if not adequately addressed now.
At the breakfast table inside the Orchid restaurant at the Gateway hotel on this humid Wednesday morning – Sep 14, 2016 – Thomas recapitulated on the past “I believe that every citizen must have a sense of contributing and doing something for the country. We cannot be free-riders always expecting from the Government…” (reciting JFK).
“We owe our forebears for today but our children will hold us responsible if we didn’t act for them now…preparing a safer and healthy place for them to live in, in future.
While he appreciates all that PNG has achieved this far, he is painting a glooming picture ahead with an ever growing population on the one hand and the inability of Government to train a skilled workforce – manpower deficiency on the other.
“My greatest fear is that by 2050, PNG will not have enough skilled manpower to drive the economy forward. Our population is growing at 3-5 per cent annually while our school drop-out rate is increasing.
“By 2050 we are going to have more people and less trained workforce to serve. We are going to have problems in providing effective and efficient services in the health, education, economic, business and in almost all sectors of the economy.
“This is where my concern is. Who is responsible for these school leavers? Who is responsible to train and educate them so they are removed from nation-breaking to nation-building.
“Currently, emphasis is on theory and less attention is given to technical training which is just as important. We need to train as many skilled people as possible if we are to meet the desired targets in Vision 2050.
By virtue of the V2050, we strive to become “a Smart, Wise, Fair, Healthy and Happy Society by 2050. This means that by 2050, we as a people, will reward excellence and reach high standards of innovativeness. We will also be healthy, wealthy and safe. Our institutions will practise and uphold higher standards of transparency, accountability and good governance. In addition, our people and government will contribute more effectively to the social and economic well-being of our beautiful nation,” says Hon. Sir Dr. Puka Temu, Chairman of the V2050 National Planning Committee (Currently Minister for Public Service in the O’Neill Dion Government).
- V2050 focuses on ‘Seven Pillars’ from 2010 to 2050:
- Human Capital Development, Gender, Youth and People Empowerment;
- Wealth Creation;
- Institutional Development and Service Delivery;
- Security and International Relations;
- Environment Sustainability and Climate Change;
- Spiritual, Cultural and Community Development; and
- Strategic Planning, Integration and Control.
He said 16 years have passed since the launching of the V2050 in 2010 and thus far, we have produced more “drop outs” than skilled people. If continued at this rate by 2050, there will be some one million unskilled, 240,000 skilled manpower only to serve some 20 million – population is expected to double by then.
“It will be total chaos. We are sitting on a time bomb here. We are not going to have a Smart, Wise, Fair, Healthy and Happy Society as envisioned,” Thomas said.
According to him, APIASETS therefore is an initiative he created “to help carry some burden off the country. As a citizen, it is my sense of duty to contribute meaningfully back to the country”.
“The Government needs to have clear policies to support us to drive national issues. This is not about compromising standards. The Government must not just register us and forget about us. It must provide continuous guidance and funding. I need Government support.
“As we speak, two of our students are in Townsville undergoing commercial flying licenses, eight are at the Great Barrier marine engineers’ college and another eight are studying in Cairns on TAFE.
“Currently, 300 students are studying fulltime (enrolled) here at the Hohola campus. I am contributing to nation building through education and skills training. At this juncture, it is important that the Government should recognise our contributions and intervene,” Thomas said.
APIASETS offers 13 different programmes including:
- Diploma in Aviation (flying);
- Diploma in Aviation (engineering – fixed wing & rotor wing);
- Diploma in Marine Engineering;
- Diploma in Education (primary);
- Diploma in General Nursing;
- Diploma in Accountancy;
- Diploma in Management;
- Diploma in Tourism and Hospitality;
- Diploma in HR (Human Resources);
- Diploma in Information & Communication Technology (ICT);
- Diploma in Building & Construction;
- Diploma in Electrical engineering; and
- Certificate in Community Health Worker (CHW).
APIASETS is currently clearing a piece of land at Rainbow estate in NCD for the construction of its new school of education (teachers college). It has campuses in Buka, Kiunga, Tari, Alotau, Vanimo, and Kimbe. In five years, APIASETS plans to set up campuses in all 89 districts in PNG. And in 10 years, Thomas says, he wishes to establish and run a fully pledged university. An EOI (expression of interest) has been submitted to the Department of higher education, science, research and technology for consideration and approval.
Providing education and skills training for our younger generation can be well summed up in these words from Nelson Mandela to UNICEF’s State of World’s Children in 2001: “My dear young people: I see the light in your eyes, the energy of your bodies and the hope that is in your spirit. I know it is you, not I, who will make the future. It is you, not I, who will fix our wrongs and carry forward all that is right with the world.
“If I could, in good faith, promise you the childhood I had, I would. If I could promise you that every one of your days will be a day of learning and growing, I would. If I could promise that nothing — not war, poverty, not injustice — will deny you your parents, your name, your right to live a good childhood and that such a childhood will lead you to a full and fruitful life, I would.
“But I will only promise you what I know I can deliver. You have my word that I will continue to take all that I learned in my earliest days and all that I have learned since then, to protect your rights. I will work every day in every way I know to support you as you grow. I will seek out your voices and your opinions and I will have others hear them too.
*Interested school leavers can contact APIASETS on Telephone: (+675) 3235845 or (+675) 3235472 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org