The sacking on Monday of Papua New Guinea’s Higher Education Minister David Arore could provide another opportunity for the PNG University of Technology vice-chancellor, Prof Albert Schram, to resume his position. Prof Schram (pictured) has been mysteriously not permitted to return for PNG for well over 12 months.
HARDLY any talented European comes to our university and we have struggled for more than a year to bring back a damn good vice-chancellor, Albert Schram. Today Unitech is a dark room with no air movement. Only Schram can unlock this place and make it move again.
The government made a mediation report in 2012 and there was the Sevua Report in 2013. Nothing was found wrong with Schram, an innocent man.
But then Minister Arore said he would not let Schram back because of a ‘national security concern’ and ‘instability’. This doesn’t fit the black and white facts. Unitech students were fine when Schram was here.
The only instability was when ex-chancellor Phillip Stag illegally tried to run Schram off campus in mid-2012 and students chased off Stagg and when the government illegally kept Schram from re-entering PNG in December 2012 and students applied a boycott. These incidents were caused by the petty politics of people outside campus. If Schram had become a national security threat to corrupt and lazy people we should welcome that!
PNG law says that only the Unitech council, not the Minister for Higher Education, can hire or sack the vice-chancellor. If Schram broke any law it is a matter for the courts not the Minister.
We do not want to see a new untested vice-chancellor, either national or expatriate. If we get another corrupt vice-chancellor, they'll be here forever and destroy this place. A new and untested VC could be a disaster in any case.
Schram is from Europe and has a developed mind. He gets top marks for his leadership in only a few months. He oversaw the first new staff housing in 40 years. He fixed roads after years of potholes. He started a project to fix the waste treatment plant.
He was working to improve mess food by investigating the heart of the matter and was negotiating with publishers in India to import cheaper textbooks. These things we saw with our own eyes. This guy knows the importance of checking out things for himself instead of sitting in his office.
Most of the highly educated nationals at Unitech act in a superior way and never reach out. Dr Schram walked around a lot. He visited the dormitories, ate in the mess with us and spent much time not only with student leaders but talking to everyone.
He showed a genuine heart for our problems and did his best to improve things. Those who show they have a heart for students will help students the most, that’s a fact.
This year the acting vice-chancellor Jon Pumwa made Unitech staff angry for deciding things without consulting first. He tried to stop staff families from running small businesses to make ends meet. He tried to make a rule saying no relatives over 18 were allowed in Unitech housing. That almost started revolution.
Schram listened to student views and other opinions before making decision. He was always happy to explain clearly to us what he wanted to do and why.
Unitech teachers who have been here for years have nothing fresh to offer. Every year they do the same thing in class. A few national teachers go overseas but have no interest in educating others on what they learnt when they get back and don't seem able to explain much anyway.
Most expatriate teachers will story us if we ask and teach us new ways of doing things. They have brains full of new ideas and good ways to do development. They create vibrant environments that give energy to students and makes studies interesting.
We students need to have teachers and leaders at Unitech who have lived most of their lives in developed countries. That perspective will benefit our education and give us a better chance to get good jobs when we get out.
Unitech needs these people but few want to come. They read stories of PNG corruption then see a national in charge at Unitech and think the whole place is corrupt. Schram is a welcome Unitech light shining out to the world. He can attract good teachers from overseas.
Schram also brought in a student exchange program with universities in America that is now working. A former SRC president is studying in Spain on this program. Schram and Prof Satter were putting together a joint DWU-Unitech entrepreneur program to improve Unitech students ability to compete.
When money at Unitech is misused it can’t be used on our education. We can only stop corruption if the guilty are severely punished. This year Jon Pumwa would not touch slack teachers, he left it to Prof Satter, who didn't do much.
Corrupt staffs and teachers still at Unitech hope that if Schram is gone for good it goes back to business as usual. Schram removed several staff and teachers for failing to do their jobs. He saw corruption and was removing it. Lazy staff didn't like him. Corrupt staff worried that illegal money-making activities would be found out.
Dr Shram was honest and had zero tolerance for corruption. After he left we didn’t hear much about cleaning up corruption at Unitech.
How can we learn properly when the Unitech library has useless books and teachers give us out of date material or don't show up for class. Anyone who studied overseas looks back at Unitech graduates and laughs at how ignorant we are.
The expanding job market in PNG, especially with the LNG project, goes to people from China, India, Bangladesh, and Africa. Unitech graduates don't get these jobs because of our poor qualifications and knowledge.
Only a lucky few can find jobs overseas; most get work loading boxes in the industrial area. The big companies know that Unitech graduates are uneducated and hire hardly anyone. Unitech doesn't find out clearly from these companies how much we need to know.
Schram knows deep down what must be done to improve our education to reach the level of a developed country. He was pushing departments to listen to those who might employ us later but now he's gone and things slid downhill.
Jon Pumwa destroyed Schram's plan to use new staff housing to attract vibrant overseas teachers to give us better education and gave the houses to tired old national teachers.
The acting vice-chancellor and the rest of them keep pretending everything is fine and tell us to keep studying. After we graduate, we'll find company doors shut in our face more than before. Immediate action is needed. Only Dr Schram cares enough about our future to try.