The man behind a move to set up a third University in Samoa, Christopher Gounder, is not happy.
And the Founder of “The Oceania A+ Educational solution University (O.A.E.S.U) has turned to the Samoa Observer to voice his frustrations.
He is particularly unhappy about the Samoa Qualifications Authority (S.Q.A).
“I went to the S.Q.A. asking and begging them to give me just one chance to go and prove that I can teach the students. The first thing they said was ‘your charter and plans are very nice but we can’t trust this unless we see something happening,” he said.
But that’s where the problem lies, Mr. Gounder said.
“Where will they get tangible things if they don’t allow us to start something? They’re asking us to provide something of what we profess to do.
“I’ve given them documents, they wanted to see money and I’ve shown them that I have money for registration. Why can’t they allow me to start?
“We have this brickwall which we will never be able to penetrate and knowing the composition of the Board members, they will never give us the chance to start this institution over here.”
A former lecturer at the National University of Samoa (N.U.S), Mr. Gounder suspects the S.Q.A is being influenced by his former employer. He claims they are ganging up on him and his efforts.
“Some of the teachers from the N.U.S. are part of S.Q.A. So who in their right senses come and get an institution that would be a threat to them? That’s what I see happening.”
Mr. Gounder said he visited the S.Q.A. for the fourth time recently. They gave him a newsletter, which was published in 2013 to read about what the ministry has to offer.
“In this newsletter, they had nine institutions that were listed over here that hadn’t registered with S.Q.A. This is three years ago. Within the three years they couldn’t have these people comply. Then why won’t they give us a chance?
“They gave them a chance and they were able to operate and still kept the non-registered status?.
“They’re asking us to provide so many things including the funds which we don’t have. They told me to provide $1,000,000 dollars. Which university can provide a million dollar?
“I mean, we’re just starting. I told them I can show them the source of money, how we get money and that’s from the tuition fees and plus we have made it easier for the students by having no registration fee so accessibility is there.
“I know very well that N.U.S. started with $5-00 tala. I have more than that to provide to them.
“I went to Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour, they asked me to give them $500 tala, I showed them in my account that there’s $500 which I did, gladly knowing that they should give me the license to run an institution and they intervened together with the S.Q.A. and they said don’t give him a license so I was not given a license.
“Even in provisional registration to show that I can start and they can come and observe and validate what I profess to do with the students, it can be validated.
“They won’t have any tangible evidence until I carry out some assessment or exams which I’m not hiding anything.
“I’m not going to hide anything. It’s very transparent.
“If the parents want to come and see what we do, when we lecture, open door policy, they come in. If they have any questions, open door policy. They can record; the students can record because I have nothing to hide, not like other institutions where students cannot record.”
Mr. Gounder said he allows students to do this because he understands that students do this to enhance their ability to sit their exams.
“In Samoa, students are very gullible because they cannot fight for their right.
“But who are our customers? The students. My question is why do we treat them like they are nobody and we profess by saying that they are our future?
“In my charter, I’ve stated that we followed seven leadership where children who come through the university should be treated as nobles meaning they’re queens and kings because they are our customers. I’m not saying I’m perfect but there’s a lot of room for improvements.”
Mr.Gounder said he’s lived in Samoa for eighteen years. He paid money to become a Samoan citizen.
“I contributed a lot to the people of Samoa so S.Q.A. should think about that.
“If they need people to testify to that, my students can come and testify but I don’t need to bring people to show what I’m doing. What I’ve done speaks.
“We pay so much for the cultures of the Sevens team but what about the cultures for Education which should become our priority.
“If we want, as a country, to be compatible and together with other countries, we need to get educated on what they’re doing and get the right people on the scene.”
Mr. Gounder also spoke about the incident with the students’ late results that happened to Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture.
“The parents were looking forward to their children going to university and what happened at the beginning of the year; children had to run around to find out their results because M.E.S.C. did not present them properly.
“Someone should be fired for that. I’m very serious. Why am I saying that? Because I pay tax and that money is used to pay these people.”
Mr. Gounder said the university he plans to start provides and teaches Self-Reliance and that’s free Education for courses such as Computer, Business, Marketing and English.
“The money comes from the church and the church believes education is a religious responsibility. My question is ‘Why have they created that Awareness session with N.U.S. and policy assurance policies and they’re not doing that for us?
“They just gave us the paper and said when you’re running a university you need more of this and that but why didn’t they tell us that the first time? This just tells us that they have ulterior motives.
“It’s very sad because I thought Samoa is founded on God (Fa’avae i le Atua Samoa) but we are not being honest. The heart is far away from what we’re doing.
“As I said before, you can see that my face is Indian but my heart is Samoan. My children were born here and their first language is Samoan. My wife is Samoan.”
Mr. Gounder said that all he wants is the support from the S.Q.A.
“The building is ready but none of them has asked to see it. In the newsletter, they said they are going to support but how are they doing that?
“I don’t want just S.Q.A., I want an international body to be there as well so there’s no bias. Right now I see that they are trying to shut us. I challenge S.Q.A. to give us the chance, to give us one year to run or even six months to validate and we want a foreign Qualification Authority to work together with S.Q.A. and come and check.
When the Samoa Observer contacted the S.Q.A for a comment, the Acting Chief Executive Officer, Taua Su’a Molia Taioalo, said they have met with Mr. Gounder several times. He said the Authority couldn’t act on Mr. Gounder’s University plan because he hasn’t shown them any evidence yet.
“We want the Act, that’s the kind of evidence were asking for. Bring in the evidence, the Act. Let us see the Act.
“Give us the names of the people that are part of the Board. Give us policies and regulations. He has some good ideas about that free registration for students but he needs to give us his projections.
“Give us the Quality Management System that he’s met and let us have a look at it. The provider needs to have an account so it’s not exactly one million tala that we are asking for; all we are asking is evidence that he has funds that is sufficient enough to kick off his plan.”
Taua said the Authority would happily when Mr. Gounder has done his part.
“He only gives us words. He doesn’t come here and show us any evidence. Give us the application and evidence and not just the talk.”
Taua said the S.Q.A is only following the policies that are already in place.
“There is no shortcut here. We don’t have that. We have to go by the book and we are going by the law.”
Every educational provider must go through the same process.
“What we do is sit down with all the providers and talk to them about the process. They ask questions about what they need to do and we assist them in explaining to them of what they need to do and get.”
Taua also said that the providers Mr.Gounder referred to in the newsletter, those were the providers before S.Q.A. was established.
“There are providers that are still not registered but we can’t stop them until our Act is powerful enough to stop them.
“We can’t just say, any provider that’s not registered is out, no. These are the providers that have already been up and running before S.Q.A. was born.
“Now, the Act says any new provider that comes in, they have to go through the registration process and unless he or she provides all the evidence. We don’t just take the talk.”
Quality Assurance A.C.E.O., Melesete Lino-Mariner, added that they’ve met with Mr. Gounder before, explaining the same issue and giving Mr. Gounder the same information.
“We do not take the hearsay. They have to hand in their application to assure us that they have met the requirements for the process and together with evidence.
“We can’t process an application without evidence. So that’s how it works.
“Our criteria for the process of the Provider’s Registration, this is where we assess if the provider has the capability to set itself up as a legally legitimate body to provide education and training in Samoa.
The important thing that needs to be met is, that it is legally established, for instance, it has to be established by Act.
“There are universities established by ACT, and it must have a governing body.
“If it is legally established by Act, that Act stipulates everything such as the council, faculties etc.
“So if this was a legally established university, then we don’t need to question him.
Melesete also agrees with Taua.
“We also look at the funds because when you want to establish a university, you need to have faculties, programs, and the budget has to be based on these programs.
“The other important thing with the Provider Registration is the Quality Management System.
“In that system, it states that the providers governing body is a legally established or recognized enduring body and by that, it means a body that has been established and we know them well and long enough to trust.
“For example, when S.Q.A. was established, there were providers that were established before S.Q.A. so most of these providers, have been working together with us and now they are registered with S.Q.A.
“For now, any new providers that will come in, they need to register with us.
“The other thing is, the Providers name must be appropriate and does not mislead learners about the nature of the organization.
“At the moment, we do not know of the programs that Mr. Gounder’s university will offer.
“It’s a university; there should be different faculties so that there’s no misleading information for the learners.
“Another thing in the Q.M.S. is, the Provider has a clear statement of his Educational purpose, goal and objectives.
“He should have a strategic plan and corporate plans.
See all the elements from Quality Management System; it needs to have policies, procedures and systems within a provider.
“It needs to have development programs, review processes, program delivery and processes, assessment and moderation, reporting learner achievement and that’s what we have explained to Mr. Gounder.
“Any provider has to fill out the Provider listing form; it has all the particulars and the basic information about the provider and we put that in our list and we issue the provider application form.
“Every provider has to go through the process of officially submitting an application, an application with all the evidence.
“He hasn’t given us any application, and as we said before, an application comes with evidence and that’s how we do our evaluation.
“If he’s shown us his previous documents, we cannot evaluate on the spot because we don’t need just one document.
Melesete also explained why they haven’t visited the area where Mr. Gounder is planning to set up his university.
“The process is, the first step is we do the evaluation of the documentation.
“The second step is the site visit, so if the first step is still not finished and has not been approved, we can’t go and do the sites visit.
“So even if he said the building is ready, we cannot proceed to the second step if the first step is still not finish.
Melesete added on to what Taua has said.
“As Taua said, we have explained everything to him regarding the criteria and requirements that he needs to meet for the provider registration process and we have given him guidelines and regulations and how the process works.
“As Taua said, our evaluation is evidence-based and we have explained them to him and ask him to provide documentations.
“We have criteria for Provider Registration and in this criteria, there are questions that the provider is required to answer when he fills out a form, together with evidence to prove that he’s met everything from the criteria.
“In our last meeting, that’s where we set the dates where he will be handing in the application but he didn’t give in any application on that day, instead he came asking more questions, so that’s where we discussed for him to come back and meet with the A.C.E.O, Taua Molia Taioalo.