UPNG-ANU academics begin health and education research

Denise Lokinap and Peter Kanaparo examine questionnaires during training
Denise Lokinap and Peter Kanaparo examine questionnaires during training.

Over the past two months a small team of academics from the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) and The Australian National University (ANU) have been conducting research into the impacts of decentralization on the operational effectiveness of schools and health facilities.

UPNG staff Denise Lokinap and Peter Kanaparo, along with ANU staff Colin Wiltshire, Tara Davda, Grant Walton and Tatia Currie have been involved in training, a pilot and initial fieldwork in Gulf Province.

The research aims to better understand the performance of some of the current PNG Government’s key policies: financing of the health and education sectors, and decentralisation. By analysing case studies, it will shed light on how recent reforms impact schools and health facilities; and the reasons that church-run and accessible schools/health facilities performed better than those run by the state and in remote locations (key findings of the A Lost Decade? report).

Tara Davda, Colin Wiltshire and Peter Kanaparo examine a map.
Tara Davda, Colin Wiltshire and Peter Kanaparo examine a map.

This collaborative research project seeks to strengthen links between ANU and UPNG, and build the capacity of UPNG academics by providing training and experience in research and analysis.

Training was conducted at UPNG in April and included a field trip to Central Province. The training and pilot allowed the team to test and subsequently improve their research instruments.

With an improved set of qualitative and quantitative research instruments, last month the research team made an initial visit to Gulf Province, focusing on Kerema district.

Respondents at health facilities included the Officer in Charge, and various community representatives. Education representatives included head-teachers, representatives from the Board of Management (such as the Women’s Representative, Chairperson, and Treasurer), community representatives, and teachers. The team also spoke to numerous district and provincial officials.

Trekking back from a remote school in Gulf Province.
Trekking back from a remote school in Gulf Province.

Respondents spoke about the challenges of delivering services in Gulf Province – one of PNG’s most remote provinces. The team was told of the high costs of transportation, which impacted on government officers – for example, on the ability for education Standards Officers (inspectors) to visit schools. Emotions sometimes ran high as provincial and district officers, and school and health facility workers recalled the numerous hardships they endure to do their jobs. The province’s remoteness had particularly dire consequences for implementing the Tuition Fee-Free Policy (TFF) and the government’s more recently established policies on free health care provision.

Pushing a boat through shallow waters in Gulf Province.
Pushing a boat through shallow waters in Gulf Province.

Further trips are scheduled to Gulf (this time to the even more remote Kikori district) and East New Britain (a better performing province) in June. The team will be analysing the data later in the year.

Our first update on the progress of this research (looking at the impact of the TFF policy on schools in Central Province) was published this week. Look out for more updates on the findings from this research on the blog over the coming months.

This research is supported by the Australian Aid Program through the Pacific Governance and Leadership Precinct, as part of the ANU-UPNG Partnership.

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Tara Davda

Tara Davda was a Research Officer at the Development Policy Centre from 2016 to 2018. She holds a Masters in International and Development Economics from Crawford School of Public Policy, and currently works at Abt Associates.

Grant Walton

Grant Walton is an associate professor at the Development Policy Centre and the author of Anti-Corruption and its Discontents: Local, National and International Perspectives on Corruption in Papua New Guinea.


  • Hi Tara / Grant

    I’d love to get a copy of your follow up visit (in June this year) after your data analysis later in the year is over and when you publish the research report.

    I have a cousin brother who is a standards officer for the Baimuru sub-district (Primary School) and he does a wonderful job, but lacks resources to move around. Another cousin sister is a nursing officer in one of the functioning sub health centres.

    Thank you,

  • Tara & Grant
    Thank you so much for making the 2nd trip back to Gulf Province. Yes, I know the feeling when teachers express gut wrenching times/situations they experience in making sure they try their best in implementing the policies of the Government, especially in Education & Health. Over my 6 years (2011 – 2016) in working in the province as a Oil & Gas employee (exploration), I have come across many similar situations described here.

    My company I work has been as part of its CSR Policies, assisted many remote schools and health centres. I once donated a pretty expensive Solar vaccine Fridge (K30,000.00) to a remote health centre after I assisted a nearby health centre nursing staff manage a measles outbreak in a number of villages near the exploration drilling site. And I have helped deliver school materials where the Govt was not able to.

    Gulf Province by all means is not remote. It is one of only two provinces in this country that is connected to the Capital City by road, hence it should be taking advantage of this unique position. Yet it is not doing so. It is far cheaper to move things in bulk to Kerema the provincial capital by road from Port Moresby and then re-distributing by Sea, River and Air. The major issue is the proper use of funding to ensure this happens. Unfortunately, most often this is not the case. Contributing issues of good governance are also major concerns when development priorities are mis-placed by leaders (at the political & administrative level). This is also exacerbated by lack of proper planning by key bureaucrats & total negligence by political leaders to lead changes. The end result is lack of development all areas of the development in the province.

    Gulf has the people at the provincial, district and local level to bring about changes in the people’s lives in the key social indexes but need to have good leadership at all levels of the society (Province).

    Thank you,

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