LOOKING AFTER THEIR OWN INTERESTS and not those of the people of Papua New Guinea is certainly a growing problem with all public sector workers.
I have pondered on this for quite a while and am not sure how we train people to be more responsible and develop solid character traits.
In my own education, it most probably started when I grew up in a family embedded in Christian values with a strong grounding in what was right and what was wrong.
In pre-independence days, I went to a Catholic high school (in what is now Divine Word University) where the education program was equally weighted in all areas including development of good character traits, intellectual development as well as participating in group activities such as sports and physical work.
I remember thinking how tiresome it sometimes was for the late Fr Kenneth Feehan (the headmaster) to come in for these classes talking about the importance of responsibility, punctuality, honesty and thriftiness.
Work parades became an ever-diminishing practice as volunteers were asked for. And, contrary to what we might expect, there were always more volunteers than the number needed to do the designated work.
Volunteering at least once a week, I took pride in doing whatever work was given and we quite often did more than the amount allocated. The current chapel at DWU was constructed by volunteer student labour in this way and we were proud of our contributions.
Many years later when working as a doctor I came back to realise how important all that character training was and Fr Feehan’s teachings came back to make me realise that in fact this had been the most important part of my training in high school.
One day on a weekend I was playing with a ball and kicked it into the dormitory windows and broke a louvre. I went to report to Fr Feehan and my words were something like, “ I was playing with this ball and it went flying up and broke the louvre”.
He asked me if the ball had flown of its own volition to attack the window. I hung my head in shame and he told me that it was very important for me to realise that I must take responsibility for my own actions.
Today the tendency is for all of us to blame somebody else for problems.
We talk about politicians and senior public servants stealing through widespread corruption, yet we continue to practice it in our own workplaces; for example, using the work phone to make a personal call, using the work car for personal use, seeing a wantok who is sick first while my patients are waiting, using the photocopier to copy personal items, calling in sick when we have been drunk the night before.
We do not pick up rubbish we see on the walkway (it is the cleaners job) and we look around to see if anybody is watching and pop our rubbish into the flowerbeds.
We have started to try to build in some of this training (the importance of responsibility, punctuality, confidentiality, respect for patients and other workers etc) into the curriculum of the medical school where I teach, but we do not know how effective it will be and whether it is diluted by going out into the world where the graduate finds people in the workplace not living by these principles and gives up.
My hope is that even if a few take it to heart and practice it then there is potential for a ripple effect.
Many of course work diligently for a while but, seeing no tangible change in those around them, give up. It calls for inner strength of character to continue without giving in.