Making a real difference

By Lanuola Tupufia – Ah Tong 07 October 2016, 12:00AM

Child vendors who are keen to learn have something special to look forward to this White Sunday and even after.

The children who are participating in a reading programme initiated by Quenjule Slaven at Nelson Library will be given scholarships to cover their school fees, uniforms and stationeries. 

But the financial support for the scholarships would not have been possible if it wasn’t for a donation of $2,500 from the Samoa Stationery and Books. 

Ms. Slaven is one of four beneficiaries for the National Literacy and Numeracy week given $2,500 each yesterday at the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture’s headquarters in Malifa. 

The other recipients are, The Association of Teachers of English and Samoa (T.A.T.E.S), Nuanua Ole Alofa (N.O.L.A) and the Library Association.

The assistance is for the literacy champions to continue their commitment in promoting literacy and numeracy in the country. 

According to Ms. Slaven she was inspired by businesswoman and Managing Director of S.S.A.B. Fiti Leung Wai. 

“Fiti inspired me with the idea of scholarships based on N.Z. fellowship award,” she told the Samoa Observer. 

“The scholarship is given mainly to child vendors who come every single day (to  the programme). The scholarship will include their school fees, school uniforms and any necessities for students to go to school.”

Ms. Slaven holds a programme that aims to teach street vendors how to read at Nelson library.   

At the moment there are about six child vendors and other children who want to get involved in the programme from different schools. 

“It’s motivating for child vendors to also go to school as well,” she added.

President of library association, Avalogo Tunupopo and President of T.A.T.E.S. Anne Leauga extended their gratitude to S.S.A.B. and M.E.S.C. for the financial support.  

Literacy week started three years ago when S.S.A.B. came up with the idea to have a week long programme to promote literacy. 

Behind the initiative is businesswoman Mrs. Leung Wai. 

The company who is also the major sponsor of the project then approached M.E.S.C. who praised the idea and the first literacy week project was organised and held in July 2014. 

When the new C.E.O. of M.E.S.C. Dr. Karoline Afamasaga Fuatai came onboard, numeracy was added to the week long programme. 

Mrs. Leung Wai said her childhood experience of having limited access to books motivated her to push for literacy opportunities for the young people. 

“I didn’t have access to books so I always crave for books and used to envy my classmates,” she recalled. 

“I would then get close to these students so I can borrow their books when they were finished. I love books and always have and always will. 

“So when I had the opportunity I started my own bookshop eight years ago but I always remembered my limited access to books when growing up knowing that there are many kids out there who find it hard to get their hands on books. 

“I know that if they read more they would become smarter.”

Mrs. Leung Wai pointed out that many other kids in Samoa don’t appreciate the importance of reading and its contribution to improving their lives and raising the standard of living. 

She then came up with a plan to firstly, distribute as many books throughout Samoa and secondly, to inspire kids to read by letting them and their parents know the benefit of reading. 

Having worked in the public sector in the past, Mrs. Leung Wai understands the financial constraints and red tapes imposed by budgetary requirement from government ministries. 

“So the best way to get as many books out there to community and for kids to read was to establish public private partnership with M.E.S.C. whereby resources and expertises of S.S.A.B. and M.E.S.C. can be put together to promote literacy and numeracy as well as getting the assistance of other business, community leaders and key organisations around Samoa.”

Everything comes with a cost and the literacy and numeracy week has cost S.S.A.B. an excess of $50,000 per annum. 

“To me it’s money well spent because I believe we are making a difference through literacy and numeracy week,” she stressed. 

“We may not see results now but the results will be evident in years to come. I like to see a lot of future professors in our country.”

Mrs. Leung Wai acknowledged the support of M.E.S.C., government officials, members of diplomatic core, partners, sponsors and her friends in Australia who have dedicated their time and money in the course.

By Lanuola Tupufia – Ah Tong 07 October 2016, 12:00AM

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