Papua New Guineans: Embrace reading and you are set for life

12/10/2011 18:53

Papua New Guinean Rebecca Emori dives into a book in her spare time at the University of Sydney. Picture

by Grettel Ngason.


By guest blogger Ganjiki D Wayne

I have commented before on reading in Papua New Guinea and I’d like to do so again because I think it is such an underrated activity in PNG.

For most Papua New Guineans reading is a hard, laborious and boring activity. We’d rather chew our betelnut and carry on with mindless chatter with our equally narrow-minded peers. Or watch a movie that stimulates none of the imaginative and creative powers of the brain or allow desperate songwriters to shape our thinking by listening to their garbage.

Reading is just not a PNG thing. And perhaps in our access to social networking and blogging we have worked ourselves into a false sense of security—that reading short comments and blogs is sufficient reading. This way we can challenge the author and feel good about ourselves?

The few times I see my fellow Papua New Guineans reading a book, be it on the bus commuting to and fro or at a park or wherever, it thrills me. It’s thrilling because it’s such a rare sight. One day while sitting and waiting for an appointment outside our Revenue Haus, I was reading a Robert Ludlum novel. An expatriate stopped, checked out the title of my book and asked me where I got it. After I told him he simply said: “It’s rare to see Papua New Guineans reading...”

Things like Facebook and blogs and the newspapers are huge hits with our people. I dare say we delight in reading generally junk (or snippets of junk). We seem to have such a short attention span that we tolerate newspaper articles, blogs and Facebook comments but literature by great authors are not at all within our scope of interest.

It’s even occurred to me that while most Papua New Guineans like to possess knowledge, we hate learning. Have you ever wondered how odd it was for flunking university students to riot over the grading system? That was in my time and I’m still embarrassed because I didn’t think we deserved any grade higher than what we got! We didn’t like learning but we wanted the As. And if we our lecturers didn’t give it we tried to squeeze it out of them by threatening to burn a few cars! Come on PNG let’s change and create a true culture of reading and learning.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see a lot more countrymen and women reading? This is why I truly appreciate some great organisations whose mission is to make as many books accessible to as many people as possible. But we can all play our part in creating a new culture of reading.

At home I’ve started a book-club with my “haus lain”. Everyone was given a task to read a book and give a review at Book Review Night every week. This evening we had our first Book Review night. My brothers and cousins from primary school to the working class and university graduates all gave reviews on their books, followed by some comments and questions. It’s a way of getting us out of the trivial and generally unhelpful past times, such as watching movies and playing computer games, and into more positive activities.

This is a simple way to bring change to our nation. We start with the ones at home by helping to broaden their view of the world and expand their brain power as well as their vocabulary. Simple things like this can make a huge difference in the lives of people who are within our immediate sphere of influence. Please consider this an option for your household.

Reading short comments on Facebook and blogs may be helpful but reading books is priceless if you really want to gain real wisdom and knowledge. I implore you all to read further than this. Even though I would love for you to read my blogs and comments and emails and “like” and “share” or “forward” them, it would do you and this nation greatly if you decide now to pick up a good book and dive into it.

Like Abigail Adams says “learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardour and attended to with diligence.”

Happy reading everyone!