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Top UPNG student lives her economics dream

Jollanda Mathew (second left) poses with her fellow graduates from the UPNG School of Business and Public Policy.

‘Your future is in your hands – you are what you are and where you are because of your decisions; be disciplined and always be optimistic.’

An important reminder and encouragement from Jollanda Matthew – a young tutor at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) who graduated with a Bachelor of Economics in April this year and who has been awarded the Australian National University (ANU) scholarship to pursue a Master’s degree in International and Development Economics in 2019.

Jollanda enjoys reading novels, she is a keen learner and enjoys long conversations with her friends apart from playing netball, however there is a big contrast between her hobbies and her ambitions.

Some people end up in fields very different from their interest – but they stay in a particular field for various reasons whilst some end up doing exactly what they enjoy – they turn their hobby into their career. For Jollanda, as a child her interests were to work in a field that was noble – that involved caring, nurturing, educating and serving.

“I had thoughts of either becoming a nurse, or a teacher or even a flight attendant,” she reveals.

But she was also a practical person – observing and helping her mum and grandma with selling goods at the market ignited an interest in understanding labour and production, the distribution and consumption of goods and services.

Jollanda’s grandfather had a great influence in her career choice – he had a big interest in the economic field and had wanted to become an economist but was not fortunate to make it to tertiary level to study this course, yet he understood how the economy worked and he passed on what he know about this area to Jollanda.

Jollanda Mathew with Dr Manoj Pandey, Australian National University Lecturer, at the 63rd UPNG Graduation.

At a young age, Jollanda’s granddad helped her see how living, whether it is subsistence or commercial living – were all intertwined and that economics is a major factor in people’s decision making.

The knowledge passed onto her, coupled with her efforts in helping her mum and grandma sell their goods opened the pathway to studying economy.

“I often helped my mother and grandmother sell food at the markets when I was little and I always wondered why the price of goods kept increasing, and why K10, although may seem a reasonable amount, could only cater for certain things and not others,” she said.

“As I progressed to high school and national high school and took up economics, I started to gain a bit more understanding of why goods were produced, why there is a cost for labour, for distribution and for production and the practise of barter – exchange of goods and services and purchasing power- how much goods and services can be bought by one unit of money,” she adds.

Studying in Wawin National High School in Lae, Morobe Province was her first move away from her closely-knitted family and her first step towards learning to be independent and the opportunity to understanding more the economics of living.

“At Wawin, I had to learn to manage well my allowances that my parents sent, manage my time and priorities that was the beginning of a clearer illustration of living economically. My father is formally employed with the Works Department in Manus, but he helps my mum to toil the land because he wanted to ensure if my family is well catered for, my siblings and I can continue to attend school and progress onto attaining qualifications that will lend us a job and the cycle goes – the subsistence way of life is still a great supplement to Papua New Guinean families.”

“In my first month at Wawin, my mum would call me each morning to ensure I was up and ready for classes and had not missed breakfast. I was indirectly constantly reminded of the importance of having breakfast, being well to attend classes and to make sure to attend all classes. Being disciplined will get your somewhere in life – idleness will take you nowhere. These thoughts guided me to be grounded in order for me to continue to progress further in my education.”

“At university, I learnt how to interpret some of the issues affecting PNG’s economy, such as the foreign exchange shortage and the unemployment rate and I began to see how economics influenced people’s decision making. Economics is everywhere; the decision whether to study or go out with friends is economics.”

The privilege to pursue further studies brings her closer to fulfilling her dream of becoming an economist and contributing to nation building – a dream her grandfather shares.

“His support and encouragement has pushed me to strive to achieve exceptional results from day one of my studies and I am thankful to him and to my dad for encouraging me to pursue this area of interest.”

Jollanda was among more than 400 students from the School of Business and Public Policy who graduated in April this year.

Jollanda tutors students at the UPNG School of Business and Public Policy.

She and her fellow economics graduates have benefitted throughout their degree from the School’s strong partnership with the ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy, which is supported by the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct.

The partnership between ANU and the UPNG is supporting the School of Business and Public Policy to become a research hub, enabling academics and students to contribute to the nation’s understanding of the challenges and opportunities it faces.

The ANU lecturers work alongside UPNG staff and contribute to the academic and personnel development of students, encouraging them to be leaders and role-models to their peers.

Jollanda presently tutors nearly 200 first and third year students at the School of Business and Public Policy, a pre-requisite of the ANU Economics Scholarship.

ANU Lecturer Dek Joe Sum was full of praise for Jollanda and her peers at UPNG.

“The Precinct partnership has greatly benefited students, staff and future leaders. Jollanda is working as a tutor right now, accumulating her teaching experience,” he said.

“People like us are expatriates, we do not know the culture as well as the locals. Jollanda and other ANU Scholarship recipients are the best students, who have first class knowledge and are able to combine it with the local understanding.

“With them coming back there will be a big impact and a sustainable plan for UPNG. Our role as lecturers may not be as significant anymore – they will be the champions.”

Jollanda will depart Papua New Guinea next year with 10 third year students to attend an ANU-UPNG Summer School program as part of the partnership between the two institutions.

She will then remain in Australia to take up her master’s studies in 2019, where she will follow in the footsteps of Ani Rova, Maho Laveil and Kelly Samof – the ANU Scholarship awardees currently studying in Canberra.

“The partnership between UPNG and ANU, and my experience with the visiting lecturers, changed the way I think about economics.”

Jollanda aims to return to the School of Business and Public Policy as a lecturer, once she has completed her post-graduate studies.