I will be Guest of Honour at the 26th Grade 10 and 4th Grade 12 Graduation of Kitip Lutheran Secondary School in the Western Highlands Province on Thursday 16th December 2008. Below is the address I will be delivering to the students.
Good morning Chairman and Members of the Board of Governors, the Principal, Teachers & Ancillary Staff of Kitip Secondary School, Parents and Guardians, Families and Friends, Invited Guests, Graduating Students, Ladies and Gentlemen!
Today is a very special day in the lives of the young people who will be graduating with Grade 10 and Grade 12 Certificates. I feel really honoured to have been invited to speak into their lives on this pivotal occasion.
I have a very special message for the students, so I ask for your full attention.
The title of my speech today is “Becoming A Drop-Out Can Be A Blessing In Disguise.” Most people think that being a drop-out is bad. I have come to challenge that mentality. I hope that you will go away thinking differently.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the students graduating today can be divided into two groups. In the first group are those who will be continuing with their studies over the next few years. Sadly, these students will be in the minority. The national average for Grade 10 students continuing to Grade 11 is around 50%. This means that half of the students graduating with Grade 10 Certificates today will not continue next year.
As for Grade 12s, students going to tertiary institutions is around 30%, meaning that out of every 10 Grade 12 students, only 3 make it into college or university.
The other group, which makes up the majority, will not find a place in college or university. The sad fact is that there are a limited number of spaces in tertiary institutions. At the moment, out of 12,000 Grade 12 students throughout the country, 9,000 or 75% will NOT make it.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the sad reality we face in PNG today. We have so many primary schools, high schools and secondary schools but a small number of spaces in secondary school and tertiary institutions. The result is that out of the thousands graduating from secondary school, only a small number can continue. People talk a lot about universal primary education, free education, etc, but investment in educational facilities does not reflect all the talk.
So, seeing we have two groups of students, my message is divided into two. First, the minority. My message to those of you who continue your education next year is: Aim for the moon!
Don’t become careless and reckless with your lives. Many students are getting drunk and meddling with take drugs today. Many girls look for boyfriends instead of concentrating on their studies, and get pregnant. Students attending tertiary institutions particularly have more freedom, and most of them abuse that freedom. Don’t be one of them.
Friends, the world is now beginning to recognize and appreciate the intelligence and expertise of Papua New Guinean professional people. An increasing number of people who do well in school and in their professions are being poached by overseas employers. We are seeing many engineers, pilots, accountants, lawyers, doctors, geologists, environmental scientists, heavy equipment fitters, bankers, etc being lured overseas today with much better terms and conditions.
So aim high and far. Don’t limit yourself to the borders of Papua New Guinea. Set your sights beyond the shores. Don’t waste your time messing around with small issues such as friendships. One motto which I would like for you to adopt is this: “I will aim for the moon, and if I fall short, I will still land among the stars.”
As for those who will not continue, I want to say this: School may come to an end, but life continues. Not getting a place in a tertiary institution is not the end of life. In fact, it is a blessing in disguise.
Let me explain. For the few who will be continuing on to college or university, only a small number will get a paid job. The rest will graduate with diplomas and degrees but not get jobs, because there aren’t many jobs around. The same goes for those continuing on to Grade 11 next year. In two year’s time, only a few will make it into college or university. The majority will have to return home.
The job market in Papua New Guinea is very small. Of the 6.5 million people we have in the country, around 3 million are between the working ages of 20 and 55 years. Of the 3 million, only 300,000 (or 10%) are employed. The remaining 90% are unemployed in the sense of not holding paid jobs.
And the number of unemployed grows every year. My estimate is that out of around 50,000 young people leaving school between Grade 10 and university every year, only 10,000 can find jobs. The majority (40,000 or 80%) become unemployed. The education system produces workers faster than the public and private sectors can absorb. For the bulk of students coming out of the system, it is like driving up a dead-end road.
When I look at these facts, I am convinced that young people like you need to seriously consider becoming self-employed.
I know that self-employment goes against the mindset of most people. Most parents expect their children to get paid jobs after school. Students think the same. In fact, the whole of society expects students to end up with jobs. School conditions people to expect jobs, which is basically working (or should I say slaving) for other people.
I have done some research and have found that self-employed people are generally better off financially than the majority of salaried people. Most of the self-employed people are uneducated or semi-educated (drop-outs), but in terms of financial well-being, they are better off than the highly-educated and highly-paid. In fact, in every town today, employed people are highly indebted to self-employed people. Many self-employed people own cars while the employed compete with the uneducated for seats on PMVs.
This observation has prompted me to write a book titled “Be Your Own Boss”, in which I give 18 reasons why students, school leavers, the unemployed and even employed people need to think about becoming self-employed. I am aware that several people have already left their jobs to work for themselves after reading the book. They have come to realize that they can make more money working for themselves, and that working for a fortnightly salary is a waste of their time. A number of university students have told me they are already planning to work for themselves rather than looking for jobs straight after graduating.
I am not here to encourage people to leave their jobs, but I am saying that students who do not make it next year need to realize that there are other (better) ways of living than having paid jobs. I would like to encourage the majority of Grade 10 and Grade 12 leavers as well as you parents to think positively. NOT CONTINUING IN SCHOOL NEXT YEAR IS NOT THE END OF LIFE; IT MAY BE A BLESSING IN DISGUISE!
Think of it this way: Students who go to Grade 11 and tertiary schools will spend the next two to six years in school. Their parents will spend thousands of kina to get them into school (pay their tuition) and keep them there (meet other costs). After they graduate with a diploma or degree, they will have to look for jobs. But seeing there are too many people with similar educational qualifications looking for jobs as well, the majority of them will end up becoming unemployed.
Now imagine that you drop out in Grade 10 or 12 and next year you start working for yourself. You go back to your village and work the land. People start talking about you, but you put your head down and work, and start making money. By the time your colleagues are looking for jobs, you will be ahead financially by several years. Once you have an income-generating system working for you and you have money, you can afford to go to the best schools of your choice.
The majority of diploma and degree holders will not get jobs. And the few that succeed in getting employed will find themselves struggling from the first pay day. You know why? Well, firstly, because they will be hit with income tax. Today, working people see between 17% and 42% of their gross salaries evaporate through income tax to government. If you work for yourself in an informal business, will you pay income tax? The answer is NO. 100% of what you make is yours.
The sequence for tax payment is as follows:
The employed earn, pay tax and spend.
The self-employ earn, spend and pay tax.
Secondly, working people are faced with high prices. When they go to the shops, the prices of basic goods are high; when they go to the markets, prices are also high there. When they look at their pay, they find that it stays the same for years. So they are squeezed from all sides, like a piece of meat in a sandwich! The majority of them are one fortnight away from bankruptcy. One missed fortnight means disaster.
I have been conducting seminars on financial management throughout the country, and one thing that has come strongly, and which I also know from personal experience, is that there is not much fun in having a paid job. The truth is that the majority of working Papua New Guineans are struggling financially and actually hate their jobs. They work hard from 08:00 to 05:00 every working day and may be earning much, but most of the money escapes from their hands.
They are like traffic officers at a road junction. Money comes into their lives one way, and they direct it out many ways. And their lives are like water falling on taro leaves: a lot of money falls upon their lives, but there is no evidence; their lives are still dry, so to speak.
That is why I am saying that if you do not make it next year, don’t worry. You must take it positively. In PNG, you do not need money to make money. And you certainly don’t need a university degree to succeed financially. IF YOU HAVE LAND AND A WILLINGNESS TO WORK HARD AND MANAGE YOUR TIME AND MONEY WELL, YOU CAN BECOME A MILLIONAIRE WITHIN 5-10 YEARS. (I am not talking parables now; I am talking real millions. Not through politics, bribery, fraud and corruption but through honest hard work!)
PNG is set for unprecedented economic boom times within the next few years. When the LNG project comes on stream in 2013, there will be a lot of spin-off activities for people who are prepared to become involved. You know who those people will be? The self-employed and business people, not those working for a salary! While people who have jobs are busy attending to their employers’ businesses and spending their pay to maintain their lives, the self-employed and business people will have the opportunity to get ahead financially.
If you work for yourself, you can employ university graduates to work for you. You can live in better houses and drive the best vehicles. You can buy property in the major towns and cities and rent them to employed people. Can this happen? Has this happened already? Can it happen for you? YES! That is one of the blessings of being a so-called drop-out.
Don’t throw your life away thinking that you cannot do anything. I have come here to tell you that you can succeed in life even if the school system labels you a failure.
Being in school means other people control your time and life. Being a drop-out means you regain control of your time and hence your life. Don’t mess your life with this freedom; use it for your benefit. I repeat: IF YOU HAVE LAND AND A WILLINGNESS TO WORK HARD AND MANAGE YOUR TIME AND MONEY WELL, YOU CAN BECOME A MILLIONAIRE WITHIN A FEW YEARS.
Let me now make two appeals to parents:
Firstly, please do not give up on your children because they don’t go to Grade 11, college or university next year. You have brought them this far. You have given them a Grade 10 or 12 education. You have given them what they need to succeed. The knowledge they have gained is more than sufficient for them to succeed in life. What they will need now more than ever is your trust and confidence in them. They need your support and understanding. They need your advice and encouragement. In fact, they need your continued financial support. Instead of giving up on them or paying for them to upgrade their marks, give them the finances to start something in the village.
My second appeal: Parents, please do not to force your children to get married quickly, especially now that they have left school. I have seen so many young people getting married too soon, and they struggle for the rest of their lives. Today, money is essential for life, and times are tough. Give your children, and especially girls, a good start financially. Help them to become financially independent first before marriage and starting families.
• For students who make it to college or university in 2009, don’t mess up the opportunity. Set career and academic goals and concentrate on your studies. Remember to aim for the moon. If you fall short, you will land among the stars.
• For the majority of you who don’t make it, take it positively. It is not the end of the world. Use your imagination and creativity to start a small business. You have land. You have time. You have strength and a sound mind. If you combine these assets, money will come. You can make in one day what takes salaried people a fortnight. And several years form now, you will be better off financially than your mates who go to college or university. Who knows, you might even employ a few of them.
• To parents, don’t give up on your children. You have supported them for the past 12 years. Just be with them for one or two more. If you use the money you would spend to send them to school to help them start something, you will empower them to do better than their mates who continue with their education. And don’t force them to get married quickly. You will die earlier, but they have a long way to go. Help them set themselves up first, then they can settle into life.
I join everyone here today in congratulating you graduating students for achieving this milestone in your life. We all wish you the best as you face life from hereon.
To everyone, I wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous 2009 and beyond.
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