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Generation cult in Papua New Guinea Schools
Generation cult in Schools. The Search for Identity
by Rosewitta Gewa
The afternoon sun beat down on the concrete reflecting the glaring heat on the late shoppers as they rushed to get groceries for dinner. Outside the shops, groups of young boys huddled together near the entrance. Classes have ended for the day and it was time for battle as they wait for the opposing group to appear. You can tell that they were students by their uniform trousers hanging off the top of their bums with the uniform shirts shoved in the bag pocket, round neck t-shirts and small sling backs bludging with books hurriedly thrown in. As the other group came around the corner, all chaos broke lose as stones flew to and fro. As the fight ensued people scattered from their path to avoid the rain of stones, sticks and clashing bodies. Mothers grab their kids and drag them into the stores. The siren in the distance signals the end. Soon people fill up the walkway like any ordinary afternoon in Eriku.
In the recent years as high schools and secondary schools head towards the end of the year, there have been reports in the newspaper of schools fights either with other schools or within the school. Most fights are blamed on the different generation cult groups that exist in schools. Tensions build up between groups as they fight for new initiates for the group. It’s the time for passing the generation name on. Senior students going out, pass the name on to their juniors.
There are growing concerns that cult groups in secondary and high schools are having more negative than positive effects. The ‘generation cult’ is a recent activity practised in most of the secondary schools in PNG and has incurred the disapproval of adults. In recent years there has been a lot of talk about supernatural practises spoiling the image of schools and affecting the education of the younger generation. It is believed that these practices are linked to satanic worship with the leader of the group having the ability to talk to Satan and other evil spirits.
“We normally get cult related fights as the school year is coming to end and the grade 12s and grade 10s are preparing to sit for their final exams,” said Eddie Gewa, 44, who has been teaching in secondary schools for more than 20 years.
“This disturbs students’ concentration when sometimes the school is suspended”.
For most of the young people now in tertiary institutions, they have once been involved in cult groups in their former schools and consider this as part of the transition or initiation to adulthood. It was the normal part of high school.
When Arwyn was selected as one of the ten boys from Good Sheppard Lutheran High School to do his grade 11 and 12 at Kerevat National High School in Rabaul, he thought that is was an opportunity to escape from his parents and be independent.
With all the possible thoughts of making new friends, and the possibility to do whatever he wanted, he arrived at the school. What awaited him was totally different from what he expected and would change his life for good.
“It was the first time for me to leave my parents and be on my own. I couldn’t wait, this was freedom,” he said when asked why he didn’t choose Tusbab Secondary which was closer. He met new friends and tried to adapt to the new environment in the first few weeks. Into the second term of the school year, he was approached by one of his classmates and asked to join a group.
“I knew that I was asked to join a cult group as my big brother had told me about them, but I wanted to experience it myself”, he said.
During the initiation ceremony one dark night, he saw how it worked. It was raining heavily out in the open but the leader prayed to the devil and the candles and fire they lit burned throughout the ceremony. All the new members stood in a long line around the senior students and had their chests punched. He described it as having your heart out in the open with just a thread joining it to your body; you can’t breathe without feeling it protest to go back in. The boys were given new names and characters and told to protect it with their lives.
After acquiring a status as the second in command of the chief or leader, his life spiralled out of control. He drank, smoked, beat up any random students who stood in the group’s way and use black magic to pray to the spirits. Most of the time he didn’t attend class. His studies were the last thing on his mind.
It all came to a stop when the family of one of the boys that he had beaten up came to the school to kill him and a big fight broke up. Scared of his life, he escaped from the school and flew back to Madang. He didn’t complete grade 12 and stayed home for two years.
In new learning environments where there is less adult control than in traditional PNG society, there is concern about young people affiliating in groups to develop new cultures and behaviours. Forming of groups in the 70s and the 80s were not considered problematic but a way to promote traditional practises for the young to not forget their cultural heritage in the face of a changing world.
Agnes Mulo, a stay at home mom, confirms this. “When we went to high school twenty years ago generation cult didn’t exist. We only had cultural and regional groups. This idea of satanic worship and wild behaviour is new”.
She is also a parent to a young boy who is attending a new school after she was forced to get his transfer because he was involved with a cult group and it affected his studies.
Her son attended a school outside of Lae in Morobe Province. Without knowing, he was lured into a group but wanted to withdraw after learning he was in the wrong place. He was attacked in all forms. He was made to buy expensive stuff for the cult leader, like expensive mobiles. He had to escape several times to avoid been penalized by the group. She and her husband had to be there with him during the final grade 10 exams last year. He is now safely attending another school outside of Morobe.
Agnes believes that there are others out there who are not so lucky and their stories are unheard as these things happen and are the reality. The founders of cult movements of PNG schools originated from Sogeri, Kerevat and Pasam, Papua New Guinea’s iconic schools. She urged others to speak up with positive mindsets to eradicate this practise from schools in the country and for provinces that know or have heard of such in their provinces.
The National newspaper published a story in 2011 following the suspension of some students found to be involved in such practises. It was in George Brown High School in East Britain. Many grade 10 students were dealt with by having their boarding privileges taken away and forced to be day students.
Parents of students attending the school witnessed cult materials destroyed in a bonfire. Materials included a long thick coat, a black vest, a carved wooden frame containing chants and satanic figures, a bunch of keys known as ’60 keys of darkness’, two one metre white cloths with a snake pledge and a triangular prayer contrary to the Lord’s Prayer. The white cloths had names of students from all schools in the province and divided into six tribes of darkness. It was believed that the cult practises started in 2003 as part of a cult network in schools the East New Britain.
However, students who were interviewed by Unia Api who did a case study on the role of the teacher in addressing occult sub-cultures in PNG secondary schools argued that it wasn’t fair that school administration should have students suspended from studies for one year or have them transfer to another Secondary or National High school. It was also suggested that the school administration should put the students concerned on good behaviour bond and monitor them on the daily basis.
Other students suggested that the school administration should invite pastors from different churches to come and pray with the students, isolate the students concerned from the rest of the students, and clear any sites in the school that students use as the place of worshipping or for such practices.
The results of her study suggest that further research would help provide schools and the Department of Education with some additional important information about the students' perspective on cult in schools. Schools would have more opportunity to eliminate practices they really disapprove of if they have a better understanding of the students' point of view.
The results of her study suggest that further research would help provide schools and the Department of Education with some additional important information about students' perspective on cult in schools. Schools would have more opportunity to eliminate practices they really disapprove of if they have a better understanding of the students' point of view.
It all comes down to the relationship that teachers have with their students. A teacher who understands and can be trusted for students to confide in when they are faced with any of this problem.