Sunday, 21 September 2014


The most fearful danger facing the schools of Papua New Guinea is the damaging influence of cults. These are large groups of boys and girls who are encouraged or coerced into becoming a cult member.

Cults consist of large numbers of foot soldiers up to grade 10. They have been inducted into the cult and required to swear allegiance.

The new members are given a cult name and required to live up to their name. This may require them to drink alcohol and take drugs with the group, take part in fights, be involved in sexual activity and have a general bad attitude to school rules.

We may assume that there are schools that do not have cults. There will undoubtedly be no cults in church schools. We would be wrong.

There may be several church schools with cults including De La Salle College in Port Moresby. The fighting at Don Bosco school may indicate a cult. Church schools talk of Jesus. Cults promote Satan.

Having spoken to several young people about cults in their schools, a general picture in certain city schools is of 50% to 60% of students as members of cults. Other students are invited to join and bullied if they do not.

On students reaching grade 11, they move out of an active role and become elders maintaining an interest in the progress of the cult and identifying potential members.

I knew that there would be cults at Bumayong High School when I was a teacher there in 1993-4. The school was on the border of a jungle which meant that students could have secret meeting places in jungle clearings at night at least 600 meters from the school where they could hold initiations, smoke and drink.

I have spoken to one young woman who was a student at Passam High School in 1995 and a member of a cult. She spoke of sisterhood and looking after one another. There seems to be a different ethos in modern cults with bullying, killing and fighting.

What is to be done? Governor Naru seems to underestimate the cults in Morobe schools. Expelling the foot soldiers is of limited use. Others will take their place.

There is no value in expelling or gaoling foot soldiers involved in fights. Many have joined a cult as their response to survival. They are living up to their cult name.

Cult membership can be very attractive to many students. It gives them a peer authority separate from the teachers.

They can feel they are in charge of the school while the teachers are just workers. There would be teachers who are intimidated. Headmasters may be afraid to expel students for fear of retaliation.

Already schools give limited accountability to students in their study. Results of students are not to be given to other students. Test papers are returned upside down on the student’s desk. Now the cults can give members complete freedom in accountability.

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