May was a sad month for many parents, sponsors and students. Normal classes would not resume anytime sooner as the prime minister didn’t respond to students petitions favorably. It appeared universities in Port Moresby, Lae, Goroka and Rabaul were still on strike, no classes for over three weeks.

Whilst the other universities have allowed students to remain on campus, UPNG’s senate (a group of senior management & lecturers) resolved to suspend semester one, indefinitely.  Appearing on the PNG Tonight Current Affairs program, UPNG acting Chancellor, Dr. Mann, told John Iggins that the suspension was to diffuse tension and give the senate time to adjust 2016 academic calendar. To effect their decision, the senate gave students 48 hours to vacate the campus. Senior leaders at UPNG have seen it fit to suspend semester, but is it the right decision? This post is my opinion on students strike and the likely consequences. 

There were several questions we should ponder in the light of any further action: if UPNG SRC successfully stayed the 48-hours eviction notice and remain on campus, what would the senate do to bring an amicable solution?; if UPNG SRC failed to stop the senate, students would return when the academic calendar was adjusted –  but when?; Can the senate guarantee that students would not go on strike again on return?; the worst case scenario was going to be suspension of 2016 academic year at UPNG, UNITECH, UoG and UoNRE.

I don’t think the government would allow for the later to happen because its impacts are unthinkable. If the strike continued to a point where academic year was cancelled, not only would the students be sent home but serious consequences may follow. We are likely to see non-certification of final year degree courses, cancelling of HECAS/AES or any government scholarship for the current students, forfeiting transport and accommodation privileges and other privileges provided to current students by the government. This means one thing: most students must return as self-sponsored students.

Not only would the students feel the pinch if the academic year ended prematurely, but the government would also have created a generational setback. Subsequently there was going to be a 4-year gap as far as each stage at university level was concerned. By this I mean, we would see competition between repeating students from years 1 – 4 (those that are currently on strike) and transitioning students (those who are moving into the system). This competition would leave many eligible students without a university place, thus creating a gap that could possibly have been avoided. Again, no one in their right mind would want to envision such setback.

The government’s efforts to improve education standard would fall back too. For example, current students at universities have transited through the Tuition Fee Free policy. It is the policy of the PNC government when it came to power. I don’t think the prime minister would happily let any university senate or council suspend 2016 academic year. He would not want to see the students who have gone through the TFF policy failed because they have not collected the required/recommended GPA.

Dr Kavanamur, on FM100 news (26.05.2016 @2pm), said that students degree would be invalid if they missed classes for up to five weeks. Students have been missing classes for over three weeks. The education secretary is right. For a uni student to be eligible for government scholarship, you’d have to score a GPA above 2.00, in UNITECH’s case it is 2.25. With continued non-attendance of classes, and obviously missed assessments, you’d have realized all students may fail their course work. So, it seemed adjusting the academic calendar could be an appropriate action to take to validate awards for each student wherever they were studying this year. But was it right to ask UPNG students to vacate the campus? Unfortunately, UPNG senate had brought upon itself more headache. The senate would be contemplating how to send everyone home, deal with sponsors, adjust academic calendar, recall them to resume classes and put-up with disgruntled students and stakeholders. It would do better if it only suspended the semester and adjusted the calendar whilst students were on-campus. It simply showed the senate was incapable of handling students’ issues within its precincts.

Perhaps the best thing to do now was for the senates to adjust the academic year and negotiated for students at the 4 main universities in the country to resume classes. The sooner the better. Many parents and other stakeholders would agree on this. Two parties were involved in this debacle. The senates was the middle men. So, what was the best thing the prime minister could do to ensure resumption of classes? How could each university senate/council facilitate an amicable solution, a win-win solution? 

This strike action was, in fact, a litmus test for show of strong leadership at both political and educational levels. If the students continued boycotting classes, it would only suggest that something wasn't right with leaders at both levels.

Double Pricing: How One Supermarket Cheats Its Customers With Devious Tactics, Port Moresby

Clarity in pricing is, perhaps, the most important factor in the retail industry. Absence of this factor results in supermarkets cheating customers – this is a question of morality, it is worth highlighting. Why would pricing be done to confuse and extort money from unsuspecting customers? If you are someone who often do family shopping at this supermarket in Port Moresby you should be vigilant, especially if you are buying good on specials.

FOODWORLD Gordons, an example of double pricing.
Selling price on both products, K8.05; 
Discount price K5.90 on Window Cleaner

I have been near victim of double pricing on several occasions. What happened was that two similar products were placed together – one on reduced price and the other isn’t, with the reduced price made to be indicative of both items. I am a maths teacher, I am good with numbers. By principle, I always check prices before I make payment if I am going to buy something – a personal trait I developed over time. I think, that was possibly why I was able to identify this irregularity and share my blue experience.

So, here were the incidents that prompted me to write about this conniving act by the major supermarket at Gordons. The first incident happened when a 5 toea change was not given back to me. I had to ask for it to be given. How many of you may have just walked away? Think about it. Though it was not much, it was a matter of personal principle – the shop has an obligation (it is duty bound) to give me the right change. The fact that I asked for it does not make me a lesser person, but challenges this devious norm that 5 toea doesn’t matter – it does matter!

On another occasion I went to the same shop to buy some cleaning products. On first sight, two similar products were put together in one shelf with the same price label on either sides, encompassing both products. Knowing the normal prices, I realized the products were reduced by nearly K2.00. I pick up 2 Spray and Wipe and 2 Window Cleaner refillers – a saving of nearly K8.00. From the picture shown above, not only the cleaning products were very much alike but both selling and reduced prices were indicative of both products. So, you would have easily worked out the special applied to both items. I found out, at home, when looking through the receipt that the 4 cleaning products were not all the same price. I went back to the shop, to the same cashier and asked why. I was told the products were different. Though I knew they were different I was upset that I had been cheated by double pricing. I wouldn’t have bought 2 of the expensive products if the pricing was clear. The fact that pricing was unclear was upsetting.

Devious pricing:
- Pricing was done to conceal the expensive one. 
- Both products were placed together in the same shelf, devious 

The third incident at the same shop happened today (5th May, 2016). Unsuspectingly, I pick 2 Aerogard Roll On (50mls). They were taken from the same shelf with the same discount price of K9.95. I have had difficulty identifying Tropical Aerogard (K10.05) from Odourless Aerogard Roll On (K9.95) both 50mls when they were placed together. 

Again these were different products, but the same tactic was used to conceal the price not reduced.  I questioned why similar products were placed together, side by side on the same shelf with the discount price visible. I do admit that I should have gone further and looked closely at the fine prints. Should I blame myself? I don’t think so because I knew what I was buying. I also knew there was a saving of 10 toea. It was obvious the pricing was deliberately done to deceive customers, me being one.

In fact, these tactics (double pricing and putting similar products together) wasn’t the first time this supermarket used as it has happened on several occasions. Customers need clarity in pricing. If there is a discount offered, as in the case of Spray and Wipe and Window Clearner refillables (or the Aerogards 50mls or any products on sale), there must be clear separation and pricing to avoid mix-ups. 

The images and receipt were of the original products from the Gordons Foodworld supermarket. At no point did anyone apologise for these incidents. Nor did the supervisors show any indication to improve the way they did pricing. To date, I am still a customer at that supermarket, but a meticulous one. Next time you shop, shop smart.