Election violence scares kids away from school in Pangia

1:06 pm on 26 July 2017

Children in the electorate of Papua New Guinea's incumbent prime minister are too scared to turn up to school due to election-related violence.

PNG's ongoing, lengthy general election has been plagued by delays and unrest in parts of the Highlands region, where many schools have not resumed classes since last month despite being into the third week of Term 3 on the education calendar.

Empty school premises in Pangia.

Empty school premises in Pangia. Photo: Supplied

The principal of Pangia Christian Academy school in Peter O'Neill's Ialibu-Pangia electorate, Beulah Taita, said students had not been attending school because of friction between supporters of local candidates.

Mr O'Neill, whose People's National Congress party is on track to win more seats than MPs-elect than any other party but still well short of a majority in parliament, was declared winner of the Ialbiu-Pangia electorate almost two weeks ago.

However lingering tensions related to election disputes or grievances in this Southern Highlands electorate have taken a toll, according to locals.

Ms Taita said local candidates and their supporters took the election campaign too personally, with two rival communities in particular having lapsed into a "very big fight" .

"The fighting has taken place in our town area in Pangia, where our school is located, so we are badly affected by that," she explained.

"The children are in fear that they cannot travel to school in freedom. They don't have the freedom to come to school so the parents are keeping them back because of this situation."

Despite the problems posed by unrest in relation to the election, Ms Taita said the fee free education policy that Peter O'Neill's government implemented in the last few years had been helpful.

"It is really helping disadvantaged parents and all that who are not able to pay the school fees," she said, "so it's like about 90 percent is a big help."

Empty class room at a Pangia school

Empty class room at a Pangia school Photo: Supplied

Reports from other Highlands provinces including Hela and Enga indicated similar problems with schools, despite an increased security forces presence in the region during the election.

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