PORT MORESBY, March 3, 2011—Today the World Bank and the Government of Papua New Guinea signed financing agreements totalling US$42.5 million to significantly improve the delivery of education services, and support the participation of women and youth in the country’s development process.
Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Country Director for Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste & Pacific Islands and Papua New Guinea Minister for Treasury and Finance, Hon. Peter O’Neill signed the financing agreements for four projects that will provide a substantial investment in the long-term livelihoods of Papua New Guineans.
The funds will finance the Reading Education Project, the Flexible and Open Distance Education Project, the Urban Youth Employment Project and the Inclusive Development in Post-Conflict Bougainville Project.
Papua New Guinea is one of the most diverse nations in the world, with over 800 languages spoken across a widely dispersed population. It is an extremely young nation, with people under the age of 20 accounting for almost half of the total population and constituting a disproportionate part of the urban poor. Supporting marginalised groups and providing prospects for training, education and employment is essential to the social development of the country.
“Both the World Bank and Government of Papua New Guinea are committed to increasing opportunities to marginalised groups in order to improve their lives,” said Mr. Belhaj. “The projects represent the World Bank’s and the Government’s growing relationship and commitment to work together to provide positive outcomes for the country and all its people.”
In responding to remarks, Minister O’Neill said he was grateful for the World Bank’s timely assistance.
“The Somare Government has made education one of its top priorities through increased budget allocations annually, and has in place various programs to support youth and women’s involvement in our nation’s development.
“These four projects represent a significant investment in creating opportunities for young Papua New Guineans and in the involvement of women in Bougainville’s development. The addition of these social sectors is an important advance in our evolving partnership with the World Bank. This partnership demonstrates the Bank’s confidence in the Government development programs captured in the national budget, the Medium Term Development Plan and the Vision 2050.
“The Government recognises that low enrolment and high dropout rates are persistent issues in our education system and has began to address this. We have provided increased funding to education in the budget to support the 10 year education plan (2005-2014) and the universal basic education plan launched by the Prime Minister last year.
“Lastly, through this plan, we should address the needs of 1.5 million school aged children by 2015, and improve the current 53.4 per cent of school aged children in classrooms to about 70 per cent.”
Low enrolment rates and high dropout rates are persisting issues in Papua New Guinea’s education system. The national enrolment rate for children in Grades 1 to 6 is currently estimated at about 45 percent, largely due to the distance of school facilities from populations, a lack of resources, and schooling costs. World Bank financing will assist elementary and primary schools with improving students’ reading skills by purchasing library resources and carrying out teacher training. Further, support will be given to the Flexible Open and Distance Education centre to increase the number of young people who complete recognised secondary diploma and certificate equivalency programs.
Financing will also be put towards market-oriented urban employment training and apprenticeship programs. In Port Moresby, 17,500 out-of-work youth will receive short term training opportunities and work experience. In Bougainville, training and support will be given to women’s groups and civil society organisations to rebuild post-conflict social structures and relationships at the community level, and ensure women are involved more in decision making processes.
About the Projects
Reading Education Project
The main aim of the Reading Education Project is to improve reading skills among students in Papua New Guinea’s elementary and primary schools. In order to achieve this, funding will be provided for classroom libraries and other educational materials, as well as for related teacher training. It will also offer professional development and learning opportunities to teachers so that they are better equipped to service the academic needs of their students. The project is funded by a US$19.2 million Catalytic Fund grant.
Flexible and Open Distance Education Project
The Flexible Open and Distance Education (FODE) centre is the only public distance learning institution serving Papua New Guinea’s upper primary and secondary school leavers. It provides English, Mathematics, Science and Social Science courses that are primarily delivered through correspondence-based distance learning, supported occasionally by on-site tutors and teachers. The project will improve the quality of the equivalency curriculum across all centres, increase tutor-student contact hours in provincial centres, and introduce new technologies that will improve efficiency and reduce costs for students. The project is funded by a US$5 million International Development Association (IDA) concessional loan.
Urban Youth Employment Project
The Urban Youth Employment Project will address four key issues: poverty, employment, human capital development and social stability. It is designed as a market-oriented skills development program, providing a second chance for poor urban youth who are not in the formal school system and may be at risk of anti-social behaviour. The project will provide training and short-term employment for 17,500 young men and women in Port Moresby, helping them realise their potential and preparing them for the workforce. The project is funded by a US$15.8 million IDA concessional loan in addition to a US$600,000 grant from the Korean Trust Fund administered by the World Bank.
Inclusive Development in Post-Conflict Bougainville Project
Prior to the conflict in Bougainville, women played vital roles in community-level decision-making and were key agents of development. Overall, women held important positions in the family and community. The dynamics of the conflict and post-conflict period weakened this role resulting in women being marginalised from community decision-making processes. Inclusive Development in Post-Conflict Bougainville will strongly benefit women and women’s organisations across the region, as well as the communities where projects are implemented and the individuals and agencies that are trained under projects. It will strengthen organisations that advance the priorities of women by providing training opportunities and small grants to implement community projects, and increase community development activities which are more inclusive of women in planning and decision-making. The project is funded by a US$2.5 million grant from the State and Peace-building Fund.