The Minister of the Education, Sports and Culture, Magele Mauiliu Magele, hosted a dinner on Thursday night to farewell Chief Executive Officer, Matafeo Falanaipupu Aiafi.
Held at the Ji Xiang Restaurant, the farewell was an emotional occasion for Matafeo, who is eyeing a seat in Parliament in March’s General Elections.
The event was well attended by Matafeo’s family and senior staff members of M.E.S.C.
“I am thankful to the Lord that I was able to contribute to the development of education in Samoa,” Matafeo told the Weekend Observer.
“When I first came into the Ministry, I saw a big gap between policies, planning and what’s happening in the classrooms at the school level.
“Therefore I decided that I have to put a lot of effort in strengthening what’s happening on the ground in terms of supporting our teachers, pushing our children to learn and to do their homework, supporting the parents, making sure that the learning environment is up to standard for our children and everything.”
Matafeo believes that no matter what happens at the executive level, the most accurate measure of success is the result at grassroots level.
“I had to push the Ministry to support our teachers, to provide opportunities for our teachers to study at the National University,” he said. “The teachers were one of my priorities because I totally believe that a quality (education) system depends on the quality of our teachers. So what we had to do was support our teachers on the ground.”
Looking back now, Matafeo said he is proud of what has been achieved during his two terms. One of the highlights was the passing by Parliament of the Teachers Bill.
“This was to make sure that our teachers have high professional standards before they enter the classrooms to teach the students,” he said.
But that didn’t come easy for Matafeo.
“One of the challenges was the shortage of teachers. Like I said before that no matter what we do and if the teachers are not in the classroom then that’s not good,” he said.
“The other challenge is that it takes the whole country to educate the children. The parents have to play their part by pushing their children to go to school instead of letting them go on the streets to sell things.”
Asked what he will miss the most about his job, Matafeo said: “I will miss the children the most. I will miss their singing, their voices when I visit their classrooms and sometimes I cry when I see them. I’m going to miss those kids. “[But] I’m not going out of the country, I just chose a different path but I will still help out the ministry in any way I can.”