Landmark education agreement between PNG and NZ University
A new memorandum of understanding between Papua New Guinea's government and New Zealand's Victoria University is seen as strengthening the bilateral relationship between the two countries.
Papua New Guinea's government has signed a memorandum of understanding with Victoria University of Wellington to promote educational co-operation and training in New Zealand of Papua New Guineans.
The MOU was signed at Victoria last week in a ceremony attended by the visiting PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill who says the agreement will help his country's key development goals.
The agreement promotes educational co-operation and will enable greater numbers of PNG students to undertake doctoral degree studies at Victoria.
Johnny Blades reports:
This is the latest Pasifika initiative from a University with a Pacific community numbering close to 900, where 30 undergraduate Pasifika courses, ranging from language, history and art to legal and migration studies are on offer. Victoria's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Pat Walsh, says Victoria has implemented a Pasifika student success plan which sets ambitious targets in the next three years..
PAT WALSH: This includes lifting the number of Pasifika students enrolled in all faculties, and seeing more Pasifika students successfully complete their courses and gain the qualification they're seeking. We have already seen substantial success. Our Pasifika enrolments have almost doubled in the last decade.
PNG's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill says it's through initiatives like the agreement with Victoria that the bilateral relationship between the two countries is strengthening. Half of PNG's estimated 7 million population is under the age of 25, and Mr O'Neill says co-operation with Victoria supports his government's core goal of enabling unprecedented access to education for young generations.
PETER O'NEILL: We have just recently announced a massive financial package to rebuild many of our own tertiary institutions, including the major universities in the country, and, of course, we are rebuilding many of the infrastructures as part of our investment in the infrastructure programme in the country. So I think over the next few years, with the introduction of a compulsory education for our young kids in their elementary schools to Year 12, which will become compulsory by next year. I think education will drive the evolution and the development of our country through the millennium development goals that we have set.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban was centrally involved in establishing the new agreement and other Pasifika initiatives at Victoria through her role as Assistant Vice Chancellor Pasifika. Earlier this year, she went to PNG, visiting universities and meeting with key educational leaders and she saw how tertiary exchanges can benefit both countries.
LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN: PNG is also a very ancient country, in terms of its history and its diversity of cultures and languages. It has over 800 languages. It's 7.25 million. 50% of its population are under 25. But what I actually saw over there is that people are working very, very hard to address education in the most creative sense because this fast-growing population is also going to be a very rich player in terms of the region and the world. They're quite keen to diversify and also internationalise beyond countries like Australia. New Zealand is very much seen as part of the region. They're seen as kin and family. So there's lots of historical connections with that.
She says PNG is keen to build the capacity of its future leaders, including in the tertiary and public sectors, exposing them to a country which demonstrates accountability and transparency.
LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN: What better way to do it than signing an MOU and bringing them over here, sending our people over there to really build that capacity. So focusing on PhDs, but one can be lateral thinking - innovative ways of building capacity.
PhD student Vergil Narokobi from PNG's East Sepik province is the President of Victoria's PNG and Melanesia Students Association. He says the agreement provides a strong foundation to explore areas of mutual benefit.
VERGIL NAROKOBI: New Zealand is a comparably small nation amongst the developed world, but it is justifiably proud of many areas of its social landscape. We can experience this through common values, such as a vibrant democracy, free press, a dynamic relationship with the first peoples, respect for diversity, part of the Commonwealth, and of course our common waters, the great Pacific Ocean. An agreement that enlarges our relationship. Of course, in trade, Papua New Guinea comes here not only as recipients, but also to offer the people of Aotearoa the ancient wisdom of our people.
The cultural performances at the Victoria signing ceremony featured an array of Pasifika performances, encompassing Polynesian and Melanesian regions. They underlined the sense that this MOU is not just a recognition of PNG's growing role in the region, but also of New Zealand's role as a Pacific country and the importance of strengthening links with all Pacific cultures.
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