New Minister has a plan
He is famous for laying the smackdown on his opponents on the rugby paddock during the glory days of the Manu Samoa.
But as the new Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, Loau Keneti Sio, is more than ready to tackle some of the challenges confronting one of the most important sectors in the country.
His plan of attack starts at grassroots level, placing emphasis on compulsory schooling and early childhood education.
“Every village should have a pre-school for all the young kids,” he said. “It’s a great initiative by our government and I believe this is so vital to prepare them for Primary Schools.”
Looking at the education system as a whole, Loau admits that it is not perfect.
“There are loop holes that have to be fixed,” he said. “And I strongly believe that we can do so sorting out the problems at grassroots level first.
“We need to start from the bottom and take it step by step. If we train and teach our children from a very young age about the proper way to live life, they will be well equipped and well mannered when they reach secondary and tertiary levels of education.
“As the Bible says ‘train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it'.”
The high number of school drop outs is not lost on Loau. He believes the problem is the result of the lack of development at grassroots level, that adequately equips a child to confront the issues later in life.
As a sports man himself, Loau said the sporting arena is another area that needs a lot of development in Samoa.
“If we look at the situation of Samoa now in terms of sports, we are not where we should be,” he said.
He attributes the problem to the lack of development programmes for individual sports.
“I am not specifically talking about rugby, soccer or netball. I am referring to all the different sports. Again, we need to start from the bottom. Development programmes and trainings should start from the grass-roots level.”
Last week, the Member of Parliament for Sagaga-le-Falefa, was one of the surprising choices when Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi named his Cabinet Ministers.
Taking over from former Minister Magele Mauiliu Magele, Loau said the appointment took him by surprise.
“I didn’t think I would be selected as one of the Cabinet Ministers for this term,” he told the Samoa Observer.
But he is honoured and humbled by the opportunity.
“I give glory to God for this great chance given to me to contribute to the development of Samoa,” he said. “I am looking at carrying out my duties to the best of my ability with the help of God.”
Loau is not new to the field. He was an Associate Minister when he was in Parliament from 2006-2010. Given the five years he worked as an Associate Minister, Loau said he understands how the Ministry operates and the areas that need to be looked at.
Loau is 51 years old. He is married to Malama Sio and they have four children. He is a native of Faleula where he has lived his whole life.
He is an old student of Faleula Primary School and Samoa College.
After graduating from Samoa College, he became a Bank Officer for some time before moving on to pursue his dream of becoming a successful farmer and fisherman.
Being a Member of Parliament is something that comes naturally for Loau.
“I have always had the skills to be a leader from God,” he said.
“In my family and in my village. Therefore, I felt that I would contest in the election so that I can represent my constituency in Parliament.
“It was my gift from God, to be an active leader. And I am following his calling for me.”