Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Academic Excellence Seminar

I conducted an Academic Excellence Seminar from 15-17 January 2010. It was organised and hosted by the Christian life Centre Church at Faniufa, Goroka, for its Grade 8 to University students. A good number attended from the surrounding community and other churches in Goroka Town as well.

The seminar was conducted in 3 sessions as follows:

Session # 1: Seven Steps To Academic Excellence
Session # 2: Study Tips For Enhanced Academic Performance
Session # 3: Distractions And Pressures Faced by Students

I emphasised that all students have the potential to excell - meaning they all can score A's or Distinctions. If other students can do it, they can do it too, seeing we are all designed the same way. It all depended on how they used the minds and their time.

I also emphasised the importance of believing in God but also in themselves. I shared many positive statements to inspire self-belief. One such statement was this: "I will aim for the moon, and if I fall short, I still land among the stars." It was well-received, and I know that many of them took it as their personal motto.

The response was very positive. Many parents attended the seminar as well, and commented favourably on it. Some even testified that they found it beneficial for themselves more than the students.

Towards the end we prayed over the students and commissioned them to the Lord and the 2010 Academic Year. I believe that we will hear some good reports at the end of the year.

I have discussed the seminar with several secondary schools. I look forward to conducting it to motivate and empower Papua New Guinean students to believe in themselves and succeed academically for their good but also for the country and humanity at large.

WHAT WILL IT TAKE, PNG? By Reginald Renagi

A popular PNG blogger recently asked some pertinent questions that I wish to share with readers here: what will it take, what is the PNG Ombudsman Commission doing about this; and the perception now whether a written deal exists between the government and the public watch dog not to go after MPs referred to it for investigation?

It embarrasses many Papua New Guineans to explain to anyone why politicians in this country seem undeterred by public opinions of any kind. Unlike some democracies, where politicians caught in misconduct cases will either resign, or step down to be investigated, but not so in PNG.

The PNG experience to date shows an implicated MP usually denies publicly any adverse reports about his alleged actions. The errant politician accuses the media of being misrepresented, misquoted by inexperienced journalists; the media is spreading false rumours to discredit leader’s reputations and destabilize the government.

It seems inconceivable to many educated Papua New Guineans that MPs involved do not feel disgraced at all, or even feel compelled to temporarily step down from office to await investigations (if any). Despite public outrage and exposure by the media, PNG politicians refuse to step down from their positions of power and privilege. This seems to be condoned by the government. Here citizens may lose confidence in the rule of law and feel discouraged when the prime minister fails to take tough action against parliamentarians to do the ‘right thing’ by the people.

Well, what will it take? Forget about complaining to your local MP. It’s is a complete waste of time. The people are now so fed up about the state of PNG that they have given up writing another useless letter of complaint to their local MP. Except for a handful, most ‘pollies’ are just big disappointments to their electorates and the public. The so-called ‘big men’ are either too busy doing something unrelated to their constituent’s interests, or simply ignores complainants as a mere ‘trouble-makers’.

As for the PNG Ombudsman Commission (OC), it may soon be made powerless if the government has its way. The OC started off well with a new Chief Ombudsman's (CO) appointment with ’gusto’. The public felt very encouraged when the new incumbent discontinued master’s studies in Australia to remind the 'pollies' and senior beauracrats; the commission will without fear or favour address matters of great concern affecting PNG leadership and governance. Some investigations by the OC have to date kept certain public office holders on their toes.

However, in recent times this earlier passion has somewhat waned as the public is fed frequent doses of impropriety by politicians but no relevant authorities takes any responsibility at all to investigate matters, and take the appropriate action by law.

The familiar trend under all former COs repeats itself as political inertia takes over. Does this sound familiar? Yes it does, and the government knows this but won’t fix the problem as the whole thing works in its favour. As with most state institutions, the commission has limited resources with so much to do to clear a huge backlog of outstanding cases.

Is there any secret written deal between the government and OC? I do not believe there is, even if that is a perception now. The CO like all his predecessors is doing his best, but he is being swamped by the magnitude of the job. On the whole, the commission has to date done a sterling job, but it must do more than what it is doing now, or not doing; to put away some bad politicians behind bars. It will need the help of the Attorney General’s office and law enforcement agencies.

However, if that is not bad enough, the government now plans to pass a bill to further regulate the watch-dog. While the intentions may sound noble it is a clever move to further curb the powers of the commission, if not make it ‘impotent’. If this regulation bill is ever passed in parliament then PNG will experience more gross political abuses of power. The end state will be the PNG Ombudsman Commission becoming a mere ‘paper tiger’ with no real prosecuting powers to stop ‘crooks’ occupying public offices in future.

Well, what will it really take? What PNG may now need is a major chain reaction to be generated by professionally committed Department heads, government board CEOs, public and private sector managers, civil society, workers unions and the general public to point-blankly tell the politicians just …’where to stick it’. This may be just what it will take to stop them as done elsewhere to challenge and shame them into lifting their game.

More over, our country needs a strong 'whistle blowers' Act of Parliament to protect intrepid individuals. We must have a law in place now to protect people brave enough to expose graft and corruption of all kinds at all levels of leadership and society. Without this, PNG will continue to suffer in future as people will fear retribution from a corrupt political and weak governance system.

So what will it take? Plenty of guts by good, honest people in all walk of life. The whole nation must now collectively work towards improving and strengthening good governance in the way our national affairs is being managed by political leaders.

The whole change strategy must start from the Governor General to the prime minister, throughout government, parliament, public and private sectors, civil society, the public at large right to the ordinary villager. The buck stops with the PM, his ruling party in the present government coalition to be more committed than before to clean up its act. The PM has no real excuse for passing the buck to anyone but biting the bullet himself, and must do what’s right by the people and our country.

What’s more, Australia too can play an important role in reforming PNG politics in future. Australia must now get tough with PNG to ensure its AusAid programs has the most profound effect in transforming the quality of life for ordinary Papua New Guineans. Australia should also cop some blame in the way PNG has turned out today. As over the years, it has spoilt PNG rotten with too much aid money, and no accountability at all. Australia would do well to try a different tack this time.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd needs to diplomatically tell PNG political leaders to be more accountable for the billions spent in development aid. Australia must not rest on its past laurels but must try to be absolutely honest with PNG government and start systematically reducing AusAid funding levels. This is one foreign policy strategy to ensure our government starts improving the quality of life for all Papua New Guineans. If PNG is to independently prosper, Kevin Rudd's government must now review the overall effectiveness of its future AusAid program with PNG.

This future challenge is also Australia’s responsibility as its AusAid program has for far too long encouraged political corruption in PNG. Despite Australia spending over A$13 billion since self-government and its original good intentions, AusAid is now publicly being perceived to assume a quasi-government role. This somewhat undermines to a degree the government’s function it tends to indirectly encourage the good local member to promote ‘political pork-barreling’ of pet projects using limited resources of the government in unplanned, and unbudgeted manner.

Today, PNG desperately needs more trade balance with Australia, not more aid money. Too much lip-service has been paid over the years to review this aid program and make it an effective development tool for both countries, but the outcome has always been unsatisfactory. PNG must now make some concerted efforts to improve upon its past errors, as it paves the way forward for a new political order in the pacific under a new visionary leadership, and transformational government from here on.

In short, the whole political mess can be cleaned up by the PNG government, if only the Prime Minister does not try to shirk his political and leadership responsibility. It is not impossible for him to clean up his act now before he exits the political scene as he has the numbers in parliament to make a big different in ensuring his government is highly responsive to meet the people’s urgent needs now and in future.

For the government it has no real excuses today, as its leader has a 40 year track record in PNG and Commonwealth politics; so if the PM can’t do it now, then who can? So what will it take? Go ask the Chief for he has the answers. Sadly, it has all been wasted opportunities for the poor people of PNG despite an abundance of natural resources the country has.

Reginald Renagi

Thursday, January 14, 2010

This Is The Introduction To My Book "WHY STUDY HARD?" It Is The 1st In A Series Of 4 Books I Am Writing Aimed At Motivating Students To Excel

Most students have one reason for doing well in school, which is to get a job after graduating with a diploma from a college or a degree from a university. Their parents tell them, “Study hard and score good marks so that you can graduate and get a high-paying job.”
However, this is but just one motivating reason. In this book I present eleven other reasons why I think students need to study hard while in school. These reasons are discussed in the twelve chapters of the book.

I have written this book because of the observation that people who succeed in life work hard because there is either one reason or several motivating reasons behind their actions. In other words, they have a burning reason or reasons for doing the things they do.

Where motive is not strong or compelling enough, people give up along the way. They may start well but run out of steam midway through the journey. They give up because the reason or reasons for taking action have not been forceful enough. Unless and until people become convinced about why they should act in a certain way, what they do will lack power and vitality.

As one of my mentors says, “Without a strong enough why, even the easiest how will be too hard.” What he means is that people who do not have a strong, burning reason for doing certain things will not take action even if it is the easiest thing to do.
A horse will drink water only if it is thirsty. If it is not thirsty, you can lead it to the water but it will not drink. You can force its head down so that its nose touches the water, but it will still not drink, because it is thirsty.

What this means for you as a student is this: You can learn as much as you can about how to score good marks, but if you do not have a good reason for scoring those marks, you simply will not study hard. Your parents can encourage, coax, bribe and even threaten you to get you to concentrate on your school work but if you do not understand why you should do so, you will refuse or pretend to work hard.

This is my first book of several books in the Academic Excellence Series. The second book will provide useful tips on how you can excel academically. But without understanding why it is important for you to study hard, you will just pass over the information in that book. So my intention is to provide you with the reasons why you should study hard and score good marks first, then I will discuss how you can do it.

Having a reason for doing something is like filling your tank with petrol before you go on a journey. An empty or half-full tank cannot take you far in your journey. Likewise, a weak reason for doing something will not take you far. You may start off well but lose all enthusiasm along the way, like it happens to most students who are excited about going to school at the beginning of the year but the interest wanes out as they go through the academic year.

I believe that students need a lot of motivation to stay focused throughout the whole course of their student lives during each individual academic year life. Being young and in many ways mentally and emotionally immature and weak, you are naturally vulnerable to a lot of attractions and distractions which can easily sway you from what you are really in school for, which is to succeed academically and graduate with an educational qualification that will empower you to live a good life. One of the ways to help you to stay on course is to present to you the benefits of working hard on the subjects you study.
I have met many students who think that they are doing their parents a favour by going to school and studying hard. But I want you to realize that you are doing yourself a huge favour. You go to school and study hard for your own good. It is for the kind of life you will live later that you go to school. Your parents pay school fees and meet other education-related expenses because it is their duty or responsibility to do so. They will not live long to see how you do in life. So it is really in your best interest that you go to school.

But for you to really comprehend that, you need to be presented with the benefits you will receive in life personally as a result of working hard in school. That is to say, you need convincing on the question, “What’s in it for me if I study hard and do well?” This book will hopefully answer that question. The 12 reasons I present in this book are:

Reason # 1: You make your parents feel proud and honoured when you do well.
Reason # 2: You need to study hard to make it up the education system’s ladder.
Reason # 3: You can attract scholarships or sponsorships.
Reason # 4: Good marks will attract the attention and confidence of employers.
Reason # 5: You must do well seeing that the opportunity of being a student comes only once in life.
Reason # 6: By doing well, you demonstrate that you can survive in a competitive world.
Reason # 7: Studying hard is like sowing good seeds which will bear good fruits later in life.
Reason # 8: By studying hard in school, you can leave the world a better place than the one you were born into.
Reason # 9: Doing well in school can result in you setting a new course for future generations.
Reason # 10: Doing well and getting an educational qualification can open the world to you.
Reason # 11: Succeeding academically can bring you into contact with people you would otherwise never meet, who can help you get along in life.
Reason # 12: By working hard in school, you can lift yourself and your relatives out of poverty.

I believe these reasons to be very compelling, persuasive and motivating enough to convince you that studying hard in school has benefits for you individually as well as for your family and the nation at large.

I have six children, four of whom are currently in school. My wife and I always tell our children to do their best at school. But I have found that sometimes kids do not listen to their own parents. When somebody else talks to them, they tend to listen. I believe it is the same with you.

As a parent, I know that this book contains most of what your parents wish for you to hear and know. It exposes the heart of every parent in the country. I can visualize your parents giving this book to you at the beginning of every year and telling you, “Study hard this year. You have many good reasons to do so. You find those reasons in this book.”
I wish you success in your studies. I wrote this book because I know that you can do well. You have the ability to excel. You have the potential to do better than you have done up to this point in time. I believe in you; you must believe in yourself, and let this book inspire you to be determined to do your very best. You have twelve good reasons to do so.

International Peacekeeping Is Not National Priority.

This is an article by my friend Reginald Regani, a retired Colonel of the PNG Defence Force.

Madeline Arek’s recent National newspaper report, “PNGDF for peacekeeping duties” and Defence Minister Dadae’s media statements compels me to add that International peacekeeping is not a national priority as discussed here.

According to this news report, parliament also recently passed the PNGDF Amendment Bill 2008 to allow among other things, committing our military to international peacekeeping duties in future. A youth and school cadet programs towards nation building and national security are also in the pipeline.

The Minister’s statements have important strategic implications for PNG. It surprisingly comes amidst no real parliamentary discussions on this issue and on related national security matters.

This important defence bill and others over the years are passed with little or no in-depth debate by politicians in parliament, and excludes the public. Ongoing public opinion do determine much of our public policy considerations in formulating strategic government policies, hence, it is most crucial parliament fully debate all strategic implications with this bill before any legislative decisions can be made for obvious reasons.

Defence must plan its future roles and activities better from here on as despite two defence white papers in 1996 and 1999 respectively and a near sixty-two per cent cut in 2001, core Defence capacity has substantially eroded. This seriously has affected defence’s effectiveness to rapidly respond to national emergencies in recent years. Here is the way ahead.

First of all, overseas peacekeeping missions for the PNGDF should not be a national priority at this stage. Today’s national priority must be to now focus on homeland security by seriously addressing the most basic things lacking with our military. The government must fully ensure the PNGDF is well equipped to deal with the many transnational security concerns PNG has now.

Secondly, get the PNGDF to start doing its basic functions well and fully resource it with a realistic budget of some 2.8 per cent of GDP.

Thirdly, implement a realistic action plan now to systematically upgrade all three force elements in the next decade sound management synergies with all levels of the defence organization.

Fourthly, rather than deploy troops on peacekeeping duties overseas, get our defence force to do more national development programs in rural PNG. The government must immediately establish a “Reserve Force” to directly contribute towards national security and development. A ready reserve scheme can be activated immediately today in the provinces to ensure effective management of government goods and services to all provinces.

Last but not the least, develop and implement a creative youth and school cadet program. We must inculcate general, positive attitude and strong committed ethos of service to others by our young people. It is time we fully harness them in leadership endeavours.

PNG can now adopt a military reserve force concept to develop the Mindset of our growing young population to serve their country to their fullest potential with pride, dedication and commitment. This is one good way to protect PNG as a well secured and developed nation tomorrow.

Notwithstanding, I want to commend Minister Dadae in trying his best these past two years to improve Defence under very difficult conditions. Defence is a difficult portfolio for any MP in recent years to successfully manage, especially when the government and parliament clearly lacks the required knowledge and skills in most matters concerning national security of PNG. What Defence Ministry urgently needs now an immediate increase in manpower and budgetary support from the government and parliament, the department and defence force, Industry and general community.

Reginald Renagi