Time for a Pacific Youth Corps? (letter)by Gerald W. HuntNews Weekly
, May 27, 2006
I have just read Peter Westmore's editorial, "Race riots reveal China's hand in Oceania" (News Weekly
, May 13, 2006).
In 2004, I was in Tonga for eight weeks. Chinese then were pouring into Tonga. The new Chinese Embassy, located on the beach road, was huge. People were puzzled, and many shops and cafés were opened, and some bought out, by new arrivals from communist China.
Our New Zealand embassy staff were unconcerned. Like their Australian embassy counterparts, they live in a world of their own.
I have spent some time in Samoa and Tonga, and have visited Papua New Guinea and Fiji on several occasions. I studied Pacific History as part of a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1997.
Speaking generally, I can't interest my Kiwi contemporaries in the growing problem that exists in what Australians call "The Arc of Instability", i.e., South Pacific Islands.
The problem is one that we may have to deal with soon. All these islands have large and growing populations of youths. More than half of these populations are less than 15 years old.
I ask people there, "What will they do, and where will they go?" Invariably the reply is "Auckland" or "Sydney".
I find their education is generally poor, solely due to poor teaching. Some teachers are flown in and out, as volunteers, etc. I find the indigenous "responsibility culture" is often what we would describe as corrupt.
There seems to be an anticipated expectation that we Australians or New Zealanders will help them learn modern Western ways. But no one down here in New Zealand is aware of the problem or gives it a thought.
I realise there are churches and youth groups doing a good job; but they don't appear to provide an adequate solution.
I have been advocating the establishment of a Pacific Youth Corps for separate female and male groups, and possibly at senior (14 to 18 years) and junior (9 to 14 years) levels. I have tried to make contact with Honiara in the Solomon Islands, but failed to get a response, so this is my third attempt.
I have in mind forming a corps with an educational purpose, that is something like the Air Training Corps, i.e., with uniforms and marching drill, valid "certificated" educational courses, courses on citizenship, passing out parades, pride in self, etc.
The citizenship courses for the senior group would include public speaking, chairmanship, local government, bookkeeping, and transparency in business (the last three of these courses being a way of inculcating good practices to counter the culture of corruption).Gerald W. Hunt,