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Cult on the rise? Students' perspectives on cult issues in secondary and national high schools in Papua New Guinea

In the last five years there has been a dramatic increase in perceived levels of antisocial behaviour amongst students in Secondary and National High schools in Papua New Guinea. Certain events have caught the public's attention, such as the burning down of school buildings and reports of Satanic worship. Despite widespread concern, there seems to be little understanding of why such problems are occurring and no systematic studies to estimate the exact extent of such behaviours or their underlying cause. The main objective of this study was to collect information about the students' perspectives on the nature and extent of these perceived problems. For ethical reasons, and with regard to ease of access to participants within the time frame of the study, data were collected from the first year student teachers at Madang Teachers' College, Papua New Guinea, who had been Secondary/National High school students only a few months previously. As this was an exploratory investigation, and it was not known whether participants would feel more at ease talking one-on-one with the researcher or in groups, two methodologies were used: focus group discussions and individual interviews. The research was conducted over a period of three weeks in June 2007, and involved a total of 21 participants (three focus groups of five, five and six people respectively, and six individual interviewees, one of whom also joined a group). The main findings to emerge from these discussions were as follows. First, the participants explained their own and other students' behaviour in terms of exploring old and new traditions of school life. Second, although several participants reported knowledge of supernatural practices, many of the group activities described in the discussions were normal activities among peer cliques that provided a sense of belonging and positive support for school achievement. There were no major differences in the stories told by male and female participants, and no obvious differences in the type of information provided under different research conditions. There was some disagreement among participants as to whether or not school authorities should take strong action to eliminate the possibility of cult practices. The findings are interpreted with reference to both Western psychological ideas about the nature of adolescence, and to local traditions, practices, and understandings of lifespan development. In particular, the notion of 'searching for identity' stands out in these accounts of student behaviour. This was an exploratory study and not designed to yield results that provide an overall picture of the situation in the Secondary/National High schools of Papua New Guinea. Nevertheless, participants' reports did relate to events experienced in the majority of PNG Secondary and National High schools, and some recommendations are tentatively offered.
Type of thesis
Drawii, J. T. (2008). Cult on the rise? Students’ perspectives on cult issues in secondary and national high schools in Papua New Guinea (Thesis, Master of Education (MEd)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2239
The University of Waikato
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