What free education? It’s not

By Vatapuia Maiava and Deidre Fanene ,

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WORKING HARD TO HELP THE FAMILY IN A STRUGGLING SAMOA: Teofilo Tautolo, 60, from the village of Ululoloa

WORKING HARD TO HELP THE FAMILY IN A STRUGGLING SAMOA: Teofilo Tautolo, 60, from the village of Ululoloa

When the government announced free education for primary school students, it is safe to say that many families jumped for joy.

But according to Teofilo Tautolo, from the village of Ululoloa, they say it’s free but the schooling system has found a way to still milk money from the parents.

Teofilo says that the issue here is with small schooling groups such as Parent Teacher Association (P.T.A.) who force parents to cough up money and says it’ll go towards making the school a better place yet nothing is done.

This leaves parents asking questions about where the money is really going and if it is necessary to force parents to give up a lot of money when schooling is meant to be free for the children.

Teofilo requests if the government could have a look into the matter.

“For us living here in the urban villages, we need help too,” he told the Village Voice.

“There is a lot that we want the Government to look into. The first thing is the children’s schooling; we need someone with authority to look into how the system works.

“So keep in mind that the government always says that there is free education and that is true. But for some schools, they have this thing called P.T.A.

“We parents are expected to give some money up to the association every quarter. Now we don’t understand what they mean by free education because we still have to spend money.

“The way I see it, it would be a lot cheaper to just pay the school fees than pay obligations to the P.T.A’s.”

Teofilo says that the money handlers for the P.T.A. aren’t transparent with the money and it infuriates him.

“The thing is, P.T.A. obligations are meant to go towards making the schooling for the children better,” he said.

“But the parents and the teachers don’t even know where all the money is going. Those who handle the money keep telling us that the money is for this and that but we notice nothing happening.

“It would be good if the government has a look into how the schools are run because free education is no longer free.”

The concerned father says that it would be great if parents were given the choice for these sorts of things.

“It would be nice if it was up to the parents to take part in the P.T.A. or not,” Teofilo said.

“We have other expenses in school aside from the P.T.A. obligations so a lot of money is going. The government should have a committee to investigate this issue.

“A few parents are struggling and these extra expenses just make their situation worse. The head of the schools should also start asking what the true purpose of these obligations is.

“We know for sure that the money isn’t going towards the betterment of the school.”

And with four children living under Teofilo’s house, he feels the brunt of the obligated giving. He says that his family barely generates enough money to survive and now they have to deal with this unnecessary obligation.

“There are four children under this roof so that’s a lot of money being spent on these obligations,” he said.

“We have a few people with jobs but the money they make is nowhere near enough to cover everything and especially the obligations within the school.

“I stay at home and I tend to my plantation which helps the family with food.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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