I ENTERED THE CROCODILE PRIZE literary competition in 2010 on the premise I could write and write well. Upon reading other contributors’ work, I immediately realised their superior inherent qualities.
They knew how to use words, and did so eloquently. As I read their works, words maneuvered seamlessly into beautiful phrases and these phrases began to dance to otherworldly tunes and conjure up memorable images.
This was the power of raw talent. The quality of work that appeared on PNG Attitude was astounding. I knew right away there was more I had to do to elevate my writing skills.
Then it dawned on me: the Crocodile Prize presented a precious mine of literary work I could use to learn. Since then, I have been learning whilst contributing my own articles.
It has been more than three years now and I have learnt a lot – about both the writers and issues they write on.
Enlightenment from poetry and short stories has been spellbinding. Other writing has offered additional insights into politics, diplomacy and some social issues I take for granted.
Soon I began to judge the world around me with more caution and restraint.
My awareness has taken a great leap thanks to the Crocodile Prize, PNG Attitude and the regular contributors.
Anyway, through Facebook, emails and my blog, every year I have been promoting this wonderful competition to my wantoks in order to arouse interest.
From what I know, their responses were modest. Perhaps I am wrong but only two brilliant individuals I know of have participated so far and their works are now published in the Crocodile Anthology.
If everyone takes the competition as a venue to learn and fine tune their writing skills, the organisers will be overwhelmed with entries. But I think paranoia about not writing well discourages many because English isn’t their first language.
Perhaps only a few can see the light of opportunity to learn which is beaming from the Crocodile Prize competition. If so, it will take a lot more to drive the message home
If this reluctance is any indication, it seems many Papua New Guineans may be reluctant to improve their apparent incompetence in English speaking and writing.
As a country in a world that is fast embracing English as the preferred business lingua franca, how will we cope?
Many a time I have read pieces of writings from university graduates that are riddled with childlike mistakes. Worse, these mistakes are repeated time and again.
Now don’t get me wrong. I also make mistakes. But if a university graduate repeatedly makes the same mistakes, then something somewhere is seriously wrong.
So who is to be blamed: our education system; graduates’ lack of interest to continue to improve their English writing and speaking skills outside the classroom environment; or the Papua New Guinea mentality and the way it thrives on ignorance and consequently promotes reckless complacency?
I’d rather blame graduates and their lack of interest to take English seriously.
Learning English has been my journey and I relish it to a point it sometimes takes up my time for other things and become a nuisance, especially household chores.
As a suggestion, PNG should start measuring progress by improvements in our collective proficiency in English. And also use it to measure how well our schools are doing in educating our children.
This is important, as our own indigenous languages cannot be used sufficiently and effectively as modes of instructions in schools.
I got through four years of university education through sheer hard work and dedication, without fully understanding many of the concepts taught. It wasn’t because I’m dumb. Rather the language of instruction was English and, as I wasn’t good in English, I spent most of my time trying to understand the words and meaning of instructions and less time on the concepts the words were explaining.
Many students face this problem. Those who cannot cope simply fail their courses.
With this experience, I have advised many people that they must focus of reading and writing. And what better place to start than with the Crocodile Prize which assiduously promotes Papua New Guinea writing.
Potentially, the Crocodile Prize competition could teach the ways of writing to many students with a keen eye. And with a lot of information being shared, one could learn much.
The competition and PNG Attitude have been a revelation to me and I hope others will come to find their worth.
The Crocodile Prize is more than a competition – it is a learning centre. So join us now to write and learn.
An essay (Grade 8 dropout is chef & literary prize sponsor) and two poems (Even a tomorrow got its own; We don’t sing anymore) by Jeff Febi appear in the 2013 Crocodile Prize Anthology to be published next week
For further detail on how you can enter the 2014 Crocodile Prize, link here