The long serving Director of Catholic Schools in Samoa, Aeau Chris Hazelman, is moving on.
Aeau, who is also the Pro Chancellor of the National University of Samoa, announced during the St Joseph’s College prize giving that his work with the Catholic education system has come to an end.
The decision was made by the Catholic Church, he said.
Speaking to the Sunday Samoan, Aeau said he has accepted the decision and that it is time for him to move on.
“This is the decision from the church and plus I have been here long enough,” he said. “Thirteen years is long enough."
“For me personally, it’s time for me to move on. Thirteen years is a long time and in this current position, I feel that it is time for a change.”
Over the years, Aeau said he has experienced some extreme highs and many lows, but all were part of the challenge to improve the educational experience not just for the Catholic Church system but for Samoa as a whole.
He has learnt a lot and among the first lessons was to deal with the media.
“I have learnt a lot especially dealing with parents who are not all the same,” he said.
“I’ve also learnt how to deal with the people of the church, the different religious orders and also how to deal with the teachers because as you know, the larger number of teachers in the churches are neither brothers nor nuns.”
Being at the forefront of a religious-driven education system is much more than looking out for the interest of Catholic educated students.
“I have also learnt a lot in working with the Ministry of Education and all of the other mission schools, the private sector and of course through the church."
“It offered me the opportunity to show my gifts and talents as a teacher and an educator especially working together with N.U.S., S.Q.A. and many other organisations"
“I have always been a firm believer that it doesn’t matter which school it is, these kids are the children of Samoa and that has always been my motto to work hard for these students who are our children. So those are some of the things that I have learned in the thirteen years I have been here.”
Aeau has grown with the jobs. And part of that is due to the many challenges.
“Well you can see my grey hairs,” he said with a smile."
“In education one of the biggest challenges is, I mean the work is very important because it’s the children of Samoa, however we need teachers."
“We need committed and dedicated teachers but we also need teachers with the academic backgrounds who can do the job out of the love for the job".
“I am not ashamed to say that we don’t have enough teachers because as much as we love the job, the key element of this is the salaries.”
Aeau went on to say as much as there are teachers needed, the teachers also need to find workplaces that will benefit their families economically.
“They need to look after their families as well so this is where the problem lies and we see the importance of the work but we see that people will go to where there is enough (money) to help with their families as well,” he said.
“Another issue is the family home environment where these kids are growing up. As I have said before, the first classroom for the children is home."
“[And] as you can see there are a lot of problems arising in our country nowadays because there is something wrong with the home environment."
“It’s not just economics, there are also problems arising from families who are very rich, Christian families and ministers’ kids as well."
“There are issues with people who you thought came from good backgrounds but yet their environment is not good. So these are some of the issues and challenges that I have seen during my time and they need a lot of work.”
As for the immediate future, Aeau said he needs rest.
“Right now I will still be attached to education in some way, but at the moment to be very honest, I’m going to rest,” he said.
“I’m tired and if there is one thing that pushes this job, it is stress."
“You know with this job you get so committed to it that you don’t look after yourself so to answer your question I’m going to take a break to recharge the batteries and then I’m sure there will be something there."
“But as I said before, I’m still a teacher and I’ll always be a teacher and if there should be a call for me to help out in one way or another, I will do it."
“But for now - first things first I want to finish off my school year and then take a rest.”
So did you love what you were doing? Aeau was asked.
“I would not have stayed for 13 years if I didn’t,” he said frankly.
“I have been in Catholic Education for over 20 years I mean I graduated in 1993 and I went straight into Catholic Education so that’s a long time.”
“The reason why I love the job is that first of all, I truly believe that there is no greater feeling than engaging with a student who finds it very difficult to learn, but is interested, and not only are they interested but they actually want to do the work."
“The key element is that the teacher will have so much pride when they see their students are doing well in life."
“Even today when I was sitting on that stage I saw so many parents who were my students back then and who are now parents."
“And that’s when it hit me, “Man I’m old!”
“I wouldn’t go through this stress if I didn’t love it, and the reason why is that not only the kids are learning from us but we are also learning from them.”