The early years of a child’s education are the most important ones, says the Prime Minister. Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has rubbished claims that the cost of school fees in universities and at college level are too expensive causing students to drop out.
He has also blamed parents for bribing primary school-aged children with promises of treats to sell on the streets instead of attending school.
On Thursday, Tuilaepa said even if the school fees were two tala, parents would still complain they cannot afford it.
He added it is the early childhood of the child until they reach Year 13 that is more important in a child’s educational life.
“From Year 1 to Year 6 is crucial for a child,” explained Tuilaepa.
“This is where they start learning how to read and if they are well prepared for life by the time they are countered by difficult things, they are solid in the mind.”
Making reference to children on the streets selling products, Tuilaepa said when parents don’t have two tala, they send the children out to sell coconuts and brooms at the market.
The Prime Minister said the worst part of children being street vendors is their parents bribe them buying them ice cream when they have sold goods and this discourages them from going to school.
“Once they get used to that, they will no longer be interested in school,” he said.
“Even if they go to school they would daydream thinking I can’t wait until 1pm so I can go and sell coconuts and get some ice cream from mummy…that is the worst part about this; it’s the parents.”
Tuilaepa compared the children who don’t want to go back to school to pigs roaming the land (pua’a fanua).
“If you remember us in the villages even if you have a nice plantation with a fence, the pigs always manage to get in and eat the taros,” he said.
“It is no difference to kids who are used to life and have been bribed by their mother with the ice cream. All they will ever think about in the classroom is when they get to sell their goods so they can get money from their mother to buy ice cream.”
The Prime Minister said this is another reason why the Police and Ministry of Education are always on the lookout for those kids to encourage them to go back to school.
“But those claims are so weak because students drop out and return to their villages because they have not started well in school. If the beginning wasn’t good then the end result will be the same. That’s why I’m saying they should stop blaming the end result but they should look at how they began.”