Rising above adversity, and plotting a path forward

By Alexander Rheeney 03 December 2018, 12:00AM

It is only Tuesday but the week has got off to a flurry, thanks to the school and college graduations which kicked off yesterday to usher in the last month of the year.

Not sure if readers have seen a trend in our coverage of school and college graduations since last week, some of Samoa’s top performing students come from families that went through challenging times. But that did not hold back the students, who used the tough times as a springboard to academic success. 

Early last week the dux of Chanel College, Talalupelele Tolovaa, dedicated her academic success to her mother, who raised her singlehandedly with the support of her family. Towards the end of last week, Daniel Koria from the village of Lalovaea was announced the 2018 Year 13 valedictorian of the Seventh Day Adventist College. His father Eteuati Koria, who was the principal of the same college, died in September this year. 

In the other side of town, Talitakumi Faletolu Fiti was announced the dux of Wesley College, and she dedicated her award to her parents, especially her father who was ill. 

In today’s edition we read the story of 19-year-old Lalotea Maggie Bernard, who was announced the Year 13 dux at Maluafou College. She dedicated her achievement to her late father Peter Bernard, her mother Antonina Bernard and her extended family members.

And what about the story of Janola Muriel Tofilau, also in today’s edition of the Samoa Observer, who is the Year 13 valedictorian for the St Mary College. Her father was diagnosed with a heart condition, compelling her mother to become the family’s sole provider to the family.

There are other students that we could have missed in this year’s school and college graduation ceremonies, who have also risen above adversity and used their family challenges to push themselves to succeed. 

We can only take off our hats to the strong-willed mother or father or both for pushing their children to excel academically—right there are the building blocks of Samoa’s next generation being put in place, and molded and nurtured to prepare them for the future. 

We can all draw inspiration from the work ethic of these young people, and perhaps be thankful that here is a group of Samoans, who feel and see the pain of their loved ones and are determined to succeed in life.

To those who did not make the cut in terms of academic excellence at the end of the academic year, well, it is not the end of the road. Often, champions are born out of the many stops they have to make in life, in order to arrive at their final destination. 

It is finishing students, who are in the middle to the bottom rung of the academic performance tree, that should become the focus of the Government’s education policy. Where do they fit in the national education policy and how does the Government plan to address the increasing number of students in the formal education system dropping out without any further educational opportunities?  

It is a phenomenon that is not only affecting Samoa but other Pacific Island nations. We note the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat endorsing the Pacific Regional Education Framework, Moving Towards Education 2030” (PacREF) which prioritises actions in four key policy areas; Quality and Relevance, Learning Pathways, Student Outcomes and Wellbeing, and Teacher Professionalism. These policy areas lie at the core of the challenges currently being experienced in the region.

The PacREF promotes a human rights approach to education and seeks to empower Pacific Islanders to fully enjoy, without barriers, the benefits of education. It recognises the disadvantages faced by some groups and communities in accessing opportunities to education. Some of these vulnerable groups include girls, young women, youth, persons with disabilities, rural and outer island communities and minority groups.

The above regional framework augurs well for a region, where there are more young people under the age of 25, becoming more disenfranchised and frustrated at the lack of educational opportunities, and full-time employment in their respective countries.

With a population of less than 200,000 people coupled with a good track record in human development indicators, Samoa is perhaps in a better position to address some of these growing concerns—unlike some of their Pacific Island nation neighbours.

What do you think? Have a wonderful Tuesday Samoa and God bless.

By Alexander Rheeney 03 December 2018, 12:00AM

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