We’ve said this before and we will say it again.
If the government means what it says about education, it really is time to put money where its mouth is. Judging from what we are seeing today; the government is not walking the talk.
While it continues to claim that education is a priority, it’s difficult to accept that is the case. We are talking about recruiting, hiring and paying teachers what they are worth so they in turn provide the sort of quality teaching the young generations of this country sorely need.
We are bringing back this issue because it is timely. This week, the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture is hosting its annual conference to reflect on the past and look at ways to improve its work. The conference being held at the T.A.T.T.E building is being attended by teachers from all over the country, many of them have been subjected to poor salaries over the years.
Now we are well aware that the government has established a pathway for teachers to improve their salaries. That involves further education for teachers who don’t have the necessary qualifications to allow them to have higher salaries. It’s a good start but that’s going to take years. Some teachers simply don’t have the time nor the money.
But as it stands, we are under absolutely no illusion that if education in Samoa is to improve, teachers need to be paid well.
It’s a known fact that teachers continue to wallow among the lowest paid public servants in this country. Even worse is the fact they continue to be given all sorts of silly excuses as to why salaries – for many of them - remain poor.
It is not uncommon to find teachers who have been in the business for more than 20 years who are only still paid $20,000 per annum – if they are lucky.
You wonder why the quality of some teachers are so bad?
Let’s not fool ourselves here; you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. That’s the reality. And in Samoa today, because so many teachers are poorly remunerated - apart from a personal drive to ensure their students succeed - there is little else that motivates them to do their best.
Why should they be bothered? That’s why we are finding in some village schools that the teachers turn up whenever they feel like it.
Some of them leave the students to fend on their own while they make up their minds whether to work or not. And let’s not forget that at some schools, there are four teachers to a school of eight classes.
Which means that these schools are already poorly staffed. If you grew up in the village like most of us, you would know exactly what we are talking about.
There are many wonderful things people say about being a teacher.
But at the end of the day, it is a job and it’s about money.
Let’s not forget that most teachers are mothers and fathers. They are leaders in their churches and villages, to whom they also hold responsibilities.
Responsibilities that require money.
The point is that the government has got to start getting serious about recruiting and paying the best teachers to ensure our education system yields the best results.
The issue of brain drain is very real in all areas of society.
In Samoa today, teaching is the latest to become affected by it.
To address this issue, we don’t need to hold meetings about it.
What’s needed is for this government to walk the talk about education.
The solution is nothing we haven’t said before but in our opinion it is quite simple. Recruit the finest minds and pay them well. Give them incentives to motivate them to bring the best out of our young people.
Keep in mind we don’t just need more teachers, we need more quality teachers.
That is the only way to go.
Have a great Tuesday Samoa, God bless!