THE HON. JAMES MARAPE MP
UNIVERSITY OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA
9TH NOVEMBER 2020
Distinguished guests and graduands, good morning to you all!
I thank you for extending me the honour of delivering the Address at today’s Graduation Ceremony.
As we celebrate today, I acknowledge the presence of:
- Robert Igara, Chancellor;
- Nick Kuman MP, Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science & Technology
- Professor Father Jan Czuba, Secretary, DHERST
- Professor Frank Griffin, Vice Chancellor;
- Ed Wilkinson, Counsellor Economics, Australian High Commission
- Members of the Diplomatic Corp
- Professor Lekshmi Pillai, Dean, School of Business & Public Policy (SBPP)
- Lawrence Sause and Mr. Manohar, Deputy Deans, SBPP
- Members of the University Council;
- Members of the Academic Senate;
- Staff of the School of Business & Public Policy;
- Guests of graduating students; and
The University of Papua New Guinea
The University of Papua New Guinea is synonymous with the Independent State of Papua New Guinea because it was birthed almost 10 years before the latter came into being.
UPNG was the key institution that gave the confidence to our fathers to call for early Independence in 1975 as its first graduates emerged in 1970. There were 14 graduands, of which 6 were locals namely Rabbie Namaliu, Vincent Eri, John Kandiba, Renagi Lohia, Kas Magari, and John Pulu.
UPNG helped articulate the thinking behind the Eight Point Plan!
It was also the institution that produced the first graduates for the public service through its localization program where secretaries like Mekere Morauta took office at 28 years of age, for example.
It is the institution that has had an unbroken record of delivering quality graduates for this country for 55 years and now delivering its 65th graduation for a country that is 45 years old!
An institution is judged by its output and the quality of its graduates thereof—40,000 graduates have passed through the corridors of this great iconic nation building institution!
And today UPNG through the SBPP, is graduating a total of 397 graduands, the case of just one of the 5 schools delivering more output than in 1970!
UPNG continues to make the country proud through its quality teaching, learning facilitation, quality research, and community service.
I am told that over the next three days 1,126 graduands will receive their qualifications.
Ladies, and gentlemen, let’s all give a fitting applause to the University of Papua New Guinea, and especially the School of Business & Public Policy!
Marape-Basil Government Support for Universities
As PNG’s leading university, your government continues to heavily invest in the university’s renewal and operations. We have supported the Law and Science Buildings.
The Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) has been our flagship program which has been a welcome relief for many students and their families.
The total number of students who received HELP is 6,633 amounting to K28,081, 294 million for 2020. This is in addition to those who have received Tertiary Education Scholarship Assistance Scheme (TESAS) scholarships.
Whilst the Marape-Basil government continues to focus on tertiary and technical education, the lock down of the country early this year due to Covid-19 has shown up some insightful lessons for the higher education sector.
Wholly relying on infrastructure-based universities and technical colleges for residential based learning is no longer sufficient on its own.
A higher education sector that embraces digital learning capitalizing on technological innovation and efficiencies will withstand global challenges such as health pandemics and curb the increasing maintenance costs of colleges and universities.
Your government through the Department of Higher Education, Research, Science & Technology (DHERST) has embarked on a digital education approach to complement current approaches to teaching with an increasing number of courses being offered online. The target is to at least have 50% of courses for a program to go online for students to access anywhere in the country.
The current higher education reforms through the 2020 Higher Education Act (amendment) is setting the way in which the higher education sector is to be administered at the national level with the requirement that all institutions take the necessary steps to align their respective Acts to the Higher Education Act 2020.
This is a long overdue exercise of legal harmonization given that the Higher Education (General) Provisions Act was enacted on 30 October 2014 and ought to be urgently attended to for the sector to progress.
Role of universities in teaching, research, and employment creation
Ladies, and gentlemen, Covid-19 has shown up the greater role that universities and research institutes play in this country in the teaching of appropriate courses and the development of timely programs that meet the human capital and research needs of our communities.
The country needs courses that are applicable and that prepare students for not only formal employment but also for the development of entrepreneurial skills. The country does not have the luxury of resources that can be spread across all academic programs too thinly. All our universities need a “focus strategy” on what each can do best.
I would like to commend the University of PNG for aligning your courses and programs in line with the academic audit results of the 2013 Audit Report.
One area that the Marape-Basil government has focused on lately is to allocate resources for Research and Development (R&D).
PNG Vision 2050 calls for at least 5% of national expenditure to be committed to R&D to grow the knowledge base of the country using our biodiversity and increasing the chances of PNG owning patents. Countries are rich today not necessarily due to resource endowments, but also because they own multitudes of patents.
Patents accrue from research!
Marape-Basil government is committed to R&D funding through a major proposed competitive research grant to stimulate the young minds of our high school students, university students, and junior and senior researchers nationwide.
This calls for the Research, Science & Technology Council (RSTC), Institute of Medical Research (IMR), National Research Institute (NRI), National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI), UPNG School of Medicine, and all universities to work closely to develop a National Ethics & Research Protocol Guideline and draft legislation for approval by government.
Collaboration will be required to develop the guidelines for a national research competitive grant that researchers can bid for in the science and social science streams.
It is only through research that teaching can improve because the quality of academics depends on research they undertake.
As I speak today, your government has commissioned a major review of the STEM curriculum in the country. This review will direct the development of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses starting from primary schools to universities!
Ladies, and gentlemen, one other area I would like to mention is the need to generate discussions about employment in the country. Universities have a role to work closely with the Department of Labour & Employment to anchor their academic programs into the National Training Policy to maintain industry relevance.
Through collaboration a national employment demand study should be done to feed into the National Training Policy with academic policy implications for universities.
The Marape-Basil government has taken steps to stimulate the agriculture and small medium enterprise sectors through a major allocation of K200 million annually for the next 5 years. The use of district service improvement funds (DSIPs) also stimulates jobs in the rural areas while the public service has already maxed out consuming 75% of the entire national budget.
Your government has also committed K200 million to Connect PNG through roads, ports, telecommunications, energy, water, and economic corridors including Special Economic Zones (SEZ) as major thrust for non-mining development to enjoy sustainable growth!
In the State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) space, your government is advanced in policy based reforms to create an enabling environment for growth in the non-mining sector. We have had the support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) approving the first tranche of funding of US$100 million towards these efforts, the total being US$500 million.
Cost reduction in the enabling environment supports increasing employment opportunities as businesses can redirect money towards increasing business output.
It is my firm belief that the bulk of jobs should be private sector based and stimulated through fiscal policy and SOE reforms. The role of the public service should be to provide regulation but with a hands-off approach allowing for private sector to grow.
Data shows that employment growth potential are in the following sectors, which are outside of mining:
- Financial Business
The Marape-Basil government has embarked on strategies to diversify and accelerate growth in the above non-mining sectors to create more jobs.
We are creating an enabling environment for growth with huge flow on effects to improving employment opportunities. This is because mining sector jobs are the only ones that have been increasing since 2000 to the detriment of non-mining!
Ethical and empowering leadership
The strength of an institution is better reflected through the quality of its graduates.
Graduands, I extend my congratulations to each of you, not only as a graduate myself from this highly esteemed university but as a parent too.
Today is the public acknowledgement of your achievements. You can all take pride in the successful completion of your studies.
We must also congratulate your families, friends, and communities. I know that many of them will have made big sacrifices to ensure you could undertake your studies.
I thank everyone who has invested in these clever people who graduate today.
Graduands, you are among our nation’s brightest and best young people. You will now enter a new phase of your life.
I encourage you all to aspire to leadership roles in your respective “Communities of Practice”, your work and in your communities.
Successful leadership is grounded in strong personal values. If you have strong ethical values and maintain your own integrity, then you can always be proud of yourself. And you can lead others along the path of good conduct.
One person alone can only achieve a little. But empowering and ethical leadership motivates others to be as good as they can be. It encourages people to try hard, to innovate, and to keep on going.
So, I urge you to practice ‘ethical leadership that empowers’ wherever your journey through life takes you.
Graduands, today marks the end of a chapter in your life and heralds the beginning of a new chapter in your journey.
However, you will never know what is beyond the shores if you do not leave the shores now.
As you leave for your personal growth and development, I hope you will maintain contact with the University through its Alumni Association, to watch and participate in its renewed development and growth.
May our good Lord be the captain of your journey to life!
God Bless You All!