PNG teachers worried about overcrowded classrooms
More teething problems with implementation of PNG's landmark free education policy.
Many teachers across Papua New Guinea say they are struggling to cope with overcrowded classrooms.
While the government's free education policy has boosted enrolment numbers and school attendance rates, some schools are struggling to accommodate the influx of students.
Beverley Tse has more:
Teachers in Papua New Guinea have a big task at hand. Up to 80 pupils per class has become a reality for many schools. It brings up all sorts of problems, and many teachers are worried. This Port Moresby primary school principal, who asked not to be named, is glad more students are attending school, but she says overcrowding is taking its toll.
PRINCIPAL: The teachers are having a difficult time in teaching the class. I don't think effective teaching is taking place because the students are just too many for the teachers to teach them. My teachers are trying their very best, but at the end of the day I see that my teachers are exhausted.
The capital's education authorities have promised more classrooms and teachers, but not until next year and the region's schools desperately need them now. This principal in Alotau, who also did not want to be named, welcomes the government's free education plan, but money to back it is slow in coming.
PRINCIPAL: The programmes and activities that are planned, we are not able to fully implement because of funds that are not disseminated to schools as early as possible. Like in my school I had a problem with a photocopier and I needed to purchase a new one. I was unable to because we didn't have the funds.
Paul Barker of the non-profit think-tank, the PNG Institute of National Affairs, says teachers in Sandaun province have been told that education is now two grades below those in the past. He says it is critical more qualified teachers are employed and retained, and classrooms are multiplied.
PAUL BARKER: This commitment to free education is a move in the right direction, a recognition of the needs of ordinary people out there in rural and urban communities by the government. But it's only one step and it does require a major commitment to the teacher training colleges, building up the numbers, building up the standards.
Paul Barker says there also needs to be improved transport, communication and health planning for schools in remote areas. The Acting Secretary for the Department of Education, Luke Taita, says the government understands that schools were not designed to cope with the influx of students and it has plans to develop infrastructure over the next five years.
TAITA: It is the government's thinking that over that time we will make sure that we have adequate classrooms to cater for these children. At the moment, the Department of Education is also trying to address it by introducing the shift teaching, where some students will attend half a day and then another group of students attend the other half a day.
Luke Taita says the free education policy is benefitting 1.6 million students across 8000-plus schools in the first quarter of this year and these figures are expected to grow.
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