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IEA school system has been hitting the headlines on the dailies in the last few weeks, and all for wrong and dubious reasons, it would seem. In doing so they may have unwittingly exposed a greater evil that belies IEA. It was only a matter of time anyway.

IEA and its Board, admitted its Chairman, Mr Mea Ravu, (Post Courier 1st Dec 2017), has voluntarily made press statements to a female National Newspaper journalist who published under the headline “ K7 Million Gamble Hits IEA”.  That article was published by Mr Ravu and Mr Joe Lali the CEO, to explain why National IEA teachers had to suffer pay cuts and reduction in terms and conditions, while the Chairman himself, the CEO and Management, and expatriate teachers enjoyed pay and benefits increases at the same time.

The level of exchanges in the media has sparked my interest in this organisation and I started digging and asking around. I have an interest in this school system because I am a fee-paying parent, and over the years I have paid an obscene amount of money for my 4 children going through the IEA system. So obscene an amount I don’t want to talk about it. We have only one still at IEA school now.

At the outset, Mr Joe Lali the CEO, whom I am told was only a former Maths teacher at POMIS, is on a salary of K1.5 Million plus perks and privileges all amounting to almost K2 Million per annum. Can you believe that?

He gets more in salary alone than the Prime Minister! Certainly more than the Education Minister, and more than the Governor General of the country. It's even more than most CEOs of major SOEs. He gets a new vehicle every year. And he just gave himself another pay increase!

Folks we are looking at one of the most highly paid executives in the country, but only a few years ago he was an unknown maths teacher!

And in the face of this, the Chairman Mr Mea Ravu says that...” the recent reduction in salaries and benefits for teachers was designed to allow schools to lower fees by making the employment of teachers less costly”.  Nice thought, but our sense of logic would not be so insulted if he took time to provide names of schools that will reduce their fees, and by what percentage in 2018,  as a direct result of taking benefits away from national teachers.

But alas he does not, and I dare say he may not have that information. Neither does the CEO, Mr Lali, as he would have provided those pertinent details to the Chairman to release if he had them. It sounds all right, clever and smart, that’s why the Chairman said it, but there is no substance or truth to that excuse.

It is a comedy of the blind leading the blind at IEA.

It does not get any better with Mr Les Roas’ press statement, that expat teacher pays are maintained at NSW Teachers Levels while national teachers should be happy because they could have lost their jobs, but for the reduction in salary and benefits. This coming from someone who resigned to contest national elections twice, in 2012 and 2017, and each time he was re-employed by the CEO Mr Lali because they are mates. Looks like he got a promotion this time, so it is only right that he should protect Mr Lali’s back. But for Lali’s nepotism, he should be the one more grateful than the national teachers.

Needless to say no matter how Mr Ravu and Roai paint it, when the CEO and Management who are not at the daily coal front of education dealing with parents students and other teachers every day, decide in their nice air-conditioned offices, to give themselves and expatriate teachers pay rises, and cut national teachers benefits, then take out full page paid advertisement to mock the poor national teachers; it stinks with discrimination, and the injustice of the matter is so stark and naked.

It is a slippery slide for Mr Chairman Ravu and Roai to compare our IEA teachers to Government school teachers. Do I sense a tinge of disdain bordering on apartheid for thousands of government school teachers (and their conditions) who hold the national education system together? To compare National IEA teachers to the government teachers is a very poor choice and poor judgement for another reason I will elaborate further on.

IEA, I believe, followed deliberate localization policy and actually recruited and re-trained all of its national teachers, some even from the government service, at great cost. It has been paying them their relative worth. To now use serving government school teachers’ benefits as a benchmark to remove the contract benefits of IEA national teachers is a betrayal and slap in the face for many faithful national teachers.

What is particularly offensive about the Chairman’s press statement is that he is lying about IEA not being in a financial crisis. He has not produced any financials to support his story. He won’t be brave to produce any because a little bird says IEA may be trading insolvent. If IEA is not in financial crisis, why has IEA cut the salaries and benefits of the “goose that lays the golden egg”- national teachers, who are the back bone of IEA?

Then there is the CEO Mr Lali,  one person, who is enjoying almost K2 million kina plus worth pay, perks and privileges, and he still wants more, but at whose expense folks?

Yes, you guessed it right, at the expense of national teachers teaching at the IEA school system, and ultimately at the expense of parents like me who are stupid and naive enough to send our kids to an IEA school and pay obscene fees.

The IEA Chairman and a Mr Les Roai’s  full page Advertisement (in the Post Courier on 1st December 2017 p55), takes a swipe at a brave national IEA School Teacher who wrote to the media and complained about the injustice and unfairness of management practices.

Clearly Mr Mea Ravu and Mr Les Roai were trying to defend their own acts of open discrimination against national teachers. They must think the National Teachers and even parents like us are fools who can’t read between the lines and beyond the condescending meaningless flowery diatribe they put out.

We have been independent now for over 40 years Mr Ravu, Roai and Lali. Why discriminate and disadvantage your own people? You are happy to take our (national parents) money, but not as eager to treat our own kind the same when they do the same work as expatriates. What specie of humanity are you?

You cannot operate, and should not be allowed to operate a school system, one that educates our young children, founded upon unfairness, injustice and discrimination on the basis of their colour. What message are you imparting to our young children?

Chairman Mea Ravu, it is all well for you to have moved your children to go to school in Brisbane, but what message are you sending our children in IEA schools in PNG? That their teachers are less than their expatriate counterparts, therefore they are less than their expatriate classmates?  You expect the “few vocal minority” national teachers to accept this obvious discrimination; and I suppose you expect all the national children going to IEA schools (and their parents) to accept this too?

Come Come gentlemen, you can do better than that! Or can you? You obviously lack peripheral judgement that is critical and necessary to operate this school system.

You cannot deny national teachers impact our children on the same level in the classroom as the expatriate teachers. In fact certain individual national teachers are simply brilliant with their subjects and how they communicate with our children and even their expatriate counterparts agree. Our children gravitate over the years more toward national teachers than expatriates, although there are some exceptions. Any curriculum and syllabus material can be picked up and taught by any trained teacher on a subject. Whether a teacher is performing or not and ought to be rewarded or not should not be based on age old discriminations of race colour and creed, but on merits of objective standards and criteria openly set for them as individuals. Group punishment based on black v white issues ought be something of the past in this country for a national entity like IEA.

The manner in which you have come out to squash one brave national teacher standing up to your patent discrimination raises more questions about IEA as an organisation, its core values, its moral code, the quality of its management and its Board, and what Mr Ravu and the team are doing in their property development etc.

The IEA school system is one of the most expensive Education establishments in the Southern Hemisphere. It is more than ten times more expensive than its comparable counterparts in Australia. It is comparable to any GPS schools like Kings or Knox Grammer in Sydney in terms of level of fees charged, but what it delivers is pitiful in comparison. Not a patch on Kings or Knox.

Every year the fees keep going up, but we don’t get any improvement in teaching standards or materials and facilities. There is no independent and regular audit system to keep standards in check with Australian or international benchmarking. There are no active extracurricular activities or special interests groups like we used to have 10-20 years ago.  There are no music classes (including piano or horn classes) on levels experienced before, no dedicated instruments teachers or a range of foreign languages (apart from French) offered.  The school system is going backward, while the fees keep going upward! Meanwhile Nero (Lali) is fiddling while Rome is burning.

IEA school Board and management under Mr Lali as CEO have clearly lost the plot. They should by now rightfully remove the suffix “International” from their name as a good start.

This brings us to the fundamental question of whether IEA is a scam or fraud? Who actually owns the IEA school system?

To answer this we have to look at how the school system was started. This means we have to go back in time and look at the very foundations of IEA and how it came to be.

Prior to Independence, Australia operated 2 systems of schools; the “A” schools and the “T” schools. The “A” schools operated with mostly expatriate teachers to serve the needs of expatriates living through-out the country. On independence these Australian government owned schools were transferred to the PNG government through the Department of Education by the Australian government, as it did with all other lands and assets the Australian government held.

The then Director for Education, Sir Alkan Tololo, on behalf of the government of Papua New Guinea, accepted the schools and the properties transferred by the Australian government.

The current IEA run schools and their properties therefore rightfully belong to the Independent State of Papua New Guinea. Therefore how IEA is now arranged and whats going on is a major scam, and a major fraud on the State and the people of Papua New Guinea.

In or about 1977, Sir Alkan Tololo approached then Education Curriculum Advisor to the Department and experienced Australian school teacher (who last taught in Awaba High School), Mr Alwyn Neuendorf about what to do with the schools and properties handed over by the Australian government.  Mr Neuendorf then approached his friend Mr Steve Mead, a former Catholic Brother who taught at Fatima High School and POMIS, and advised him to set up a parallel school, to continue the expatriate school system, but hold the school system and assets in trust for the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.

Mr Steve Mead did as he was asked and with the help of Alwyn Neuendorf set up IEA school system. The arrangement was for the schools and the properties to be held in trust for the State, but at same time maintain a competently run an international school system to better serve the growing needs of PNG and PNGians and remaining expatriate population.

Rightfully the shares in International Education Agency of Papua New Guinea Limited (IEA) should be 100% owned by the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, and the IEA school system should by right report to the Minister for Education.

IEA school system and all its assets belong to the Independent State of Papua New Guinea. The State has not parted with these assets. Mr Mead was only asked to take care and set up a mechanism to continue delivery of international class education.

As a company, IEA did not pay for the properties, and the assets, and the business it was vested with. IEA did not pay one single Aussie Dollar or PNG Kina to the State. All properties and assets of IEA are rightfully public assets of the people of Papua New Guinea. The IEA school system is a public asset of the people of Papua New Guinea, period.

Therefore how IEA is now arranged and operated and what is currently happening as with all the media haranguing about the financials of IEA and how it is used or abused as with the failed property development costing over K7 Million, is a major scam, and a major fraud on the State and the people of Papua New Guinea.

Mr Alwyn Neuendorf is not dead. He can tell you straight up and down that no money changed hands and that the IEA schools were transferred to the State, and ultimately belongs to the people of PNG through State ownership. That Mr Mead was only asked to manage and operate it, not divest ownership from the State. That is why for some ten years since taking over running of the schools, Mr Mead always reported to and liaised with the Department of Education, even up until Mr Neundorf retired and beyond that time.

What is going on with Mr Mea Ravu and the waste of K7 Million Kina in failed property development losses and discriminatory actions taken against our own national teachers shows that clearly IEA has lost the plot and it now time for Hon. Nick Kuman, Secretary for Education Mr Kombra, and the State to take over this State asset and the IEA school system and bring it under some control and accountability under the Public Finances Management system.

There needs to be a Public Commission of Inquiry by the State into the running of IEA over the years and its financials to bring the Board and its management to account.

What Mr Mea Ravu and Mr Joe Lali are presiding over would have to be one of the biggest and best scams in the history of PNG. Certainly it is a fraud against the State and the people of Papua New Guinea to hijack public assets.

Proper controls, ownership and supervision of the State needs to be brought in urgently to stop all the nonsense going on at IEA. IEA’s shares must rightfully go back to the State and the Department of Education must appoint a Board to run the schools for the benefit of all Papua New Guineans, not just a bunch of self-righteous and self serving individuals like Mea Ravu, Joe Lali and Les Roas.

The Assets of IEA must be worth at least K1 Billion by now.

The situation calls for the Prime Minister and NEC to intervene and act immediately to set a proper Board and management in place and rescue the school system that the State rightfully inherited from the Australian government.

The government must step in, take ownership and make international class education system more affordable for all Papua New Guineans than what these jokers have been doing so far.

In this regard I know I have the support of the most important stakeholders, that includes most parents and almost all the national teachers at IEA.

Mr Daniel Polonski (Bubuleta).
East Cape. Milne Bay.