Sunday, September 26, 2010

SIL-PNG: For the Next Three Years and Onwards

SIL’s Vision Statement is ‘Papua New Guinea: Empowered through the Written Word.’ As an organization, SIL volunteers provide not only linguistic research and language development through Bible translation, but SIL translation and literacy teams endeavour to engage in a holistic ministry - addressing health and literacy, nutrition and community development needs in the rural sector of PNG. A majority of the population is located outside of the urban setting and cannot access much of the printed material that is available in PNG concerning these issues. One cause is lack of physical access due to cost or availability. Another major cause is that the rural population speaks a local language and not English or Tok Pisin. SIL desires to provide local access to this vital information and to provide it in the languages of the people.

HIV/AIDS AWARENESS: Of recent note is the assistance SIL has been to the AIDS Council in providing ongoing translation of HIV/AIDS Awareness materials, both written and video, into the local languages of PNG. SIL personnel will continue to conduct HIV/AIDS Awareness seminars in local communities, churches and schools. SIL values the need to raise awareness of this growing concern, such that SIL medical personnel are asked to lead an HIV/AIDS Awareness session even in non-health related courses, such as Translator’s Training Course, or Strengthening Tok Ples Education in PNG. Although the main focus is on the rural communities, SIL language teams do also address the needs of the displaced language communities in the urban setting. [Reference: HIV/AIDS Awareness Impact by SIL to Date]

OTHER SOCIAL CONCERNS: A major threat to family and community life and stability is the growing concern over the sale and use of marijuana. SIL translators have produced helpful booklets clearly outlining the problems caused to PNG by the use of marijuana and will continue to produce such helpful booklets and books to inform the people of PNG of these threats to themselves and their communities.

SIL translation and literacy teams can invest as much as 20+ years living in a remote language community, learning the language and culture, identifying gifted and interested PNG co-workers to train in translation and literacy work as well as Scripture Use activities. Each year these volunteers have provided over 600,000 hours of training to local citizens, equipping them to read and write, to gain skills in translation, to become teachers in the local vernacular prep schools, to prepare reading and teaching materials, Scripture Use materials for use in the home and in the local church – training that not only provides skills, but improves the quality of life of the local citizens. SIL commits to continue this language development.


In addition to work in individual or cluster language programmes, SIL continues to actively seek to equip PNG citizens with the skills and experience to move ahead in translation and literacy in their own or neighbouring language communities.


In the 1980’s, Karl and Joice Franklin, SIL translators in PNG, worked closely with a dedicated group of PNG men and women who wanted to be involved in Bible translation in PNG. Through mentoring and encouragement, the PNG Bible Translation Association was formed. Today it has its headquarters in Pt. Moresby, with regional offices in Alotau, Madang and Wewak. SIL’s role has changed from one of teacher and mentor, to that of partner with these dedicated men and women. As a partner, SIL continues to provide BTA members with training in translation and Biblical studies, as well as literacy principles and teacher training.


John and Bonnie Nystrom, SIL translators among the Arop language community in Sandaun Province, were engaged in Bible translation with several local language speakers appointed by the community. In 1997, a devastating tsunami wiped out half of the Arop language community. Several of the translation committee were killed, along with their families. These local translators continue to build translation skills and to move ahead in translation of Scripture with the mentoring and guidance of the Nystroms and several other SIL linguists. [Reference: Aitape West story]


 SIL Translators, Ed and Debi Condra, worked among the Patpatar language community on New Ireland. They and their PNG translation committee completed the New Testament in 1999. Ed had a vision for seeing more language communities accessing the Scriptures in their own language, and he had a vision for training local men and women to do the translation themselves. He developed and raised funds for the construction of the New Ireland Translation Institute. Several times each year, he and other SIL translators travel to New Ireland to lead continuing training sessions, equipping PNG men and women from over 14 languages to do translation work in their own languages.


SIL Translators, Martin and Beate Knauber, worked among the Dawawa language community in Milne Bay Province. They and their local translation team completed the New Testament in 2003. But the Knaubers along with Gino and Kopland, their co-translators, saw that there are still many languages in the Milne Bay Province without any Scripture in their language. So, they developed and raised funds for the Vernacular in Translation and Literacy training approach. Today other SIL consultants have joined the VITAL staff to carry on this training. Three times each year, locally appointed language speakers travel to the training centre near Alotau and work on translation of Scripture, led by SIL consultants and mentors as well as experienced PNG mentors such as Gino and Kopland. Each month-long session is an in-depth hands-on experience of guided translation. After each session, the participants return to their language communities to check the portions they have translated – gathering community input and approval. SIL is committed to continuing this hands-on translation through the VITAL course.


Since its inception in the early 1990’s, SIL literacy specialists and consultants have staffed the STEP course, providing in-depth training in vernacular material production, curriculum development, teacher training, finance management and literacy programme supervision to PNG men and women appointed by their local communities to develop, teach in and supervise local literacy programmes for children and adults. The course consists of (5) 4-week modules over a 2 year period. After each module, participants take what they have learned back to their local community to put it into practice and evaluate how much they have learned and what they need to improve on. The STEP graduates return to their local communities to train other teachers, developing and maintaining a local literacy programme. Children who have completed the local vernacular education have gone on to be successful in the government school programme. In 2011 there will not be an intake of new participants. Rather SIL will hold several in-services for STEP graduates to update their skills and encourage them in their teaching. The STEP staff will continue to evaluate the needs of the local communities and structure their curriculum and course offerings to meet the felt needs.


SIL has provided training for PNG citizens in translation and Biblical studies at its Ukarumpa training centre since the late 1980’s. But the distance and logistics of travel to the Highlands is often a physical and financial hardship for the participants. Courses have been held occasionally in other regions of PNG, but the Buka Training Centre has become a hub of continuous training for PNG translators and literacy personnel. These participants are mentored by SIL and BTA consultants so that they can do independent translation and literacy work in their own language communities.


Department of Education:

During the history of SIL’s partnership with the Department of Education, SIL consultants have provided mentoring and assistance in vernacular curriculum development for the PNG school system, specifically within the Elementary Education system, but also with regards to bridging into English from the Elementary system into the Primary Education system.

Alphabet Development:

SIL translation and literacy personnel have worked in Bible translation and literacy in over 350 language communities since 1956. Such language work necessitates the development of a workable alphabet. This alphabet then enables local speakers to write their own stories and school materials. In response to a government request in 1999, SIL consultants assisted an additional 100+ local communities in the development of a trial alphabet, using a method developed by SIL consultants that enables local language speakers to design their own writing systems with the guidance of a trained orthography technician. Additional alphabet development assistance has been provided since that initial request in 1999. Orthotech training has been made available to not only SIL language personnel, but also PNG citizens so that they can assist neighbouring language communities in the development of an alphabet where one does not yet exist. The Curriculum Development and Assessment Division, DOE, has asked SIL to help them develop a training track for their own orthography consultants so that these PNG consultants can assist local communities with this development, where there is yet to be an alphabet. The first workshop in that training track is currently scheduled to take place in September 2010.

Tertiary Level Involvement:

SIL is in dialog with the University of Papua New Guinea, University of Goroka and Divine Word University to determine in what way SIL can work alongside these institutions to join our SIL consultants and SIL’s years of experience in vernacular education, vernacular materials production and teacher training with their staff and course curriculum to benefit teacher education in PNG. We look forward to providing what resources we can in these crucial areas.

To support the work SIL is engaged in country-wide, the organization has developed a base of operations in the Highlands of PNG where other SIL volunteers and hundreds of PNG employees provide the services needed to maintain over 180 language projects:

• Ukarumpa International School for the volunteers’ children as well as the children of our PNG employees who desire to attend;

• SIL Aviation Department that enables SIL translation and literacy teams to access the remote regions of PNG where no commercial transport is available. Transport services are also made available to SIL PNG citizen co-workers living in those remote regions of the country, as well as to commercial concerns that require transport into the interior of the country.

Since SIL’s arrival in PNG in 1956, the focus of the administration has been to engage citizen co-workers and to equip them to further the task of Bible translation. As such, SIL has been engaged in national training since their first days in PNG. As the organization grew and the numbers of volunteers increased, the need for additional support services grew. Instead of strictly bringing in expatriate volunteers to meet these infrastructure needs, SIL engaged in intentional national training to equip interested and gifted citizens with the necessary skills to provide the infrastructure needed, but also to equip citizens with skills that could be used outside of the SIL domain, in the economic sector.

Infrastructure that has evolved over the years includes:

• Printshop to provide printed vernacular Scripture portions, church teaching materials, literacy materials, health and community development booklets. The Printshop is now run totally be PNG citizens. An apprenticeship programme, currently administered by John Kenea, the Printshop Manager, has produced gifted and qualified printers and press operators

• Post Office to provide local postal services. The Post Office is now run totally by PNG citizens.

• Auto Repair and Maintenance Department – A small staff of well-qualified expatriate mechanic/trainers oversee a staff of 10 PNG citizen employees who have completed the nationally recognized apprenticeship program, using their skills to support Bible translation through maintaining vehicles and repairing engines. Many employees have since gone on to enter the PNG workforce.

• Construction Department – A small staff of well-qualified expatriate carpenter/trainers oversee a staff of 13 PNG citizen employees. Over the years, a well-recognized apprenticeship programme has provided nationally recognized local training for gifted and interested citizen applicants – training in carpentry, joinery and construction skills. These employees along with the expatriate trainers, build housing in rural villages for our translation and literacy teams, as well as make furniture and fittings for houses and offices at the main support base in Ukarumpa and SIL’s 8 Regional Centres. As with our other departments, over the years, employees have gone on to use their skills in the PNG workforce, often establishing their own companies. SIL continually provides training to available applicants to support the work of SIL, but also to equip citizens with needed experience and training to enhance their skills and enable them to enter the national workforce. [Reference: 2008 Annual Report – Apprentice of the Year Award]

• Industrial Department – Two expatriate men currently oversee a staff of citizen employees in maintaining the physical property at SIL’s main support base at Ukarumpa. Over the years, the employees have gained skills in machine repair, appliance repair, heavy equipment operating, etc. As with other employees, some from this department move on to seek outside employment.

• SIL Store – A small store selling grocery and household items is operated at the Ukarumpa support base to provide a resource for supplies for the SIL staff and PNG employees resident at Ukarumpa, as well as to local citizens. Two expatriate staff supervise the operation of the store and the 25 PNG citizen employees, providing on-the-job training and subsidizing external training as needed.

• Computer and Technical Services Department – With the advent of advanced technology, a need was created to have a strong support department for the maintenance of computers, radios and other electronic equipment that are used in the work of Bible translation and language development. Even in this highly technical area of work, SIL volunteers seek out interested and gifted PNG citizens and provide them with additional on-the-job training as well as further schooling in Information Technology¸ specifically radio repair, computer hardware repair and computer user assistance.

• Finance Department – Although SIL has an in-depth accounting system that is part of the SIL International structure, we employee PNG citizens to assist with the bookkeeping and accounting needs of the local organization. To date we have 5 citizen staff. Over the years other citizens have gone on to seek outside employment using the on-the-job training SIL has provided as well as the tertiary education that SIL has subsidized.

• Regional Centres – To meet the needs of SIL translation and literacy teams throughout PNG, 8 regional centres have been established, that serve as a resource and as a physical location for regional translation or literacy workshops. Each centre has one expatriate manager couple and then a staff of citizen employees to support the resource centre and the training courses.

Establishing the physical infrastructure of SIL has involved the creation of hundreds of jobs for local citizens, as well as citizens who have been recruited from other areas of Papua New Guinea. The training that has taken place and continues to take place builds strong, well-equipped citizens who often enter the PNG workforce in a variety of roles.

In the PNG of the 21st century there are high demands for skilled, qualified tradesmen to support the infrastructure of the country. The LNG project alone has demonstrated to the leaders of this country the need for more and better-resourced vocational training institutions. SIL has consistently provided qualified technical training, through the recognized national government apprenticeship board as well as through ongoing on the job training for well over four decades. Tradesmen who have received their training through SIL have gone on to join the economic sector of PNG and provide solid, quality expertise in needed technical arenas.

A brief list of the types of jobs SIL has provided either apprentice or on-the-job training for would include:

• Welder
• Large equipment operator
• Large and small appliance repair
• Diesel motor mechanic
• Motor mechanic and fitter
• Electrical mechanic and fitter
• Electronics technician
• Computer repair technician
• Radio repairman
• Avionics specialist
• Aircraft engine mechanic
• Aircraft maintenance engineer
• Pilot
• Locksmith
• Printer
• Press operator
• Carpenter
• Joiner

In Summary:


• The Church throughout PNG is being strengthened by vernacular Scriptures and strongly impacting their communities

• Bible Translation and Language Development work is thriving and sustainability is increasing throughout the country due to more Papua New Guineans being trained, resourced and equipped

• SIL-PNG and BTA working in partnership with key stakeholders worldwide advancing Bible translation, Language Development and Scripture Use

• PNG and the wider world are benefiting from increased understanding of the languages and cultures of PNG

• Well-trained, qualified tradesmen are available for employment in the economic sector should they seek outside employment

• Increased partnership with government and tertiary institutions of PNG is taking place¸ providing experience and resources in language development and literacy training to the training institutions of PNG

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