Papua New Guinea
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The least intellect thing to do

Right across Papua New Guinea today, there are hundreds of young men and women, struggling to get on with life.

In our urban areas, many of these people are selling betelnut, cigarettes and whatever they can get their hands on to survive because they “failed” to make it to universities or into any of the tertiary institutions in the country.

Many others are in their villages and putting up with a lot of hardships, brought on by the prevailing economic and social pressures impacting the country today.

How often do we hear them complain about the challenges life throws at them every day of their lives?

Not a single day, do they raise their voices against the state or their parents and they represent the bulk of the more than 30,000 students that graduate from secondary schools every year.

Those who go onto universities should consider themselves privileged and they are undertaking various courses at huge cost to the state and their parents.

As educated young men and women, attending elite education institutions, they should be very careful in the way they conduct their lives and when it comes to dispute resolutions, they should carefully think and plan any action they take.

We have watched the bullying tactics employed by the students, led by their Student Representative Council, that has led to a stalemate at the University of Natural Resources (UNR),

And we cannot help but agree with Minister responsible, Don Polye and Acting Secretary, Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology Fr Jan Czuba that the students behaved badly.

We are alarmed at their behaviour because as highly educated young people, we expected them to pursue their grievances properly with the relevant authorities in a peaceful, acceptable way to get an outcome.

But no, they were violent and caused destructions to university properties worth around K1 million and disrupt classes for other innocent students.

Their behaviour, sadly is consistent with the way, many of our illiterate or semi educated people behave in dispute resolution, among families, clans and tribes across the country which has unfortunately led to many bad conflicts we bear witness to these days.

We need to learn to talk directly with people with whom we have a problem with, we must plan and work out a proper approach, choose a good time, avoid the blame game and finally meet with the other party.

We have to learn to talk things through properly before we take a stand and violence should be the last resort.

It is very obvious, this did not happen at the UNR, which is having a dire consequence on the students now.

The UNR case should be a lesson for other tertiary students. We are not saying university students should not protest, as they have their civil rights to exercise but they are only qualified rights and they must understand this.

Damaging property will not address the problem in any way as seen with this instance.

Their initial cries are now replaced with the criminality of the actions of a handful.

That is getting attention for all the wrong reasons.

Further, they should look up history and see how past students behaved.

Back then, university students were some of the most powerful groups in the country, and they determined or influenced government policies for the betterment of the country, not for selfish reasons when they decided to mount protests against authority, and of course destroying the very properties that incubate and develop the very intellect they claim to have.

To restore normalcy and allow classes to resume, the UNR should come down hard on the student leaders involved in this violence and face the ultimate price they chose which is to lose their valuable places in the institutions.

Universities are not breeding grounds for criminal behaviour.