Teachers assistance piloted in primary schools

The shortage of teachers to attend to young students in classrooms, particularly at primary level, could soon be alleviated with a new programme called Teachers Aid being pilot

The education programme, being trialed in some primary schools at the Faleula district, allows for selected parents to assist teachers inside classrooms by helping with simple tasks such as reading or helping children in counting 1 to 10. 

The Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, Loau Keneti Sio, said the programme looks at utilising parents who bring in their children to school and are often sitting in halls doing nothing. Loau admitted that one of the problems in Samoa is overcrowded classrooms and too many students for one teacher.

“We can talk about plans to bring in more staff and teachers but that problem will remain and there is always a shortage,” the Minister told the Samoa Observer.   

“It is often the case that the teacher is not at school because she is on maternity or has left for better paid jobs and other factors. 

“So the model looks at using two parents from those that bring in their children to school and are often sitting around to help the teacher inside classroom with the primary students. 

“This way the classroom that is overcrowded, the parents assisting teachers offer that help of either reading to other students or even take the younger students to bathrooms. 

“Realistically that is what the teachers at primary level have to deal with. They have to guide young children when they leave the classroom and when they do - lessons are put to stop so the teacher can assist that one child or another that is crying, whereas if you have two parents assisting they can help with those simple tasks or do photocopying for the teacher.” 

Loau pointed out that parents of many children finished College and have the capacity and capability to assist primary students in reading and counting. 

The Minister said realistically one teacher just cannot attend to the needs of 40 students in a class at primary level. 

His observation from visiting schools, Loau said the young students at the front of the class are often the ones who get the cream on the cake while the ones sitting at the back are unattended to. 

“There are students who are at the back playing paper, scissors rock and they are the ones who are left behind and teachers sometimes leave them to be,” he said. 

“But the process of nurturing and teaching our children it is a collaborative work of teachers and parents where the extra pair of hands from those able parents at the school compound can lend that a helping hand. 

“So instead of them (parents) sitting under the trees or gossiping in the hall they can be of great use to help the students. 

“The teachers also have to accept that these parents are coming in to assist them and not leave their job to them…they are there to assist the kids with those simple tasks.” 

Data collected by the Ministry of Education recorded in its Statistical Digest 2018 indicated a ratio of 1 teacher for 30 students at primary education. 

A glance at the numbers show a total of 1406 (49 percent) teachers at primary education (government, mission and private schools) compared to 42706 (67 percent) students was recorded for 2018 enrolment.  

However, the Minister reaffirmed realistically some classrooms have a roll up to 40 per teacher. 

He added in order for the Ministry of Education to get the result of a well taught student, the collaborative work of parents and teachers is needed to make that product.  

A concern that has been brought to the attention of the Minister many times is the absence of teachers on Fridays. 

He said it has become the norm for teachers to bury their dead on Fridays and the students are often the victims. 

“I always said to the Ministry that Friday is like the funeral day for teachers,” Loau said with a smile. 

“It say it as a joke but that is often the case with teachers. They leave their dead to be buried on Fridays and that is the day where you will get that excuse for them not coming to school.” 

The programme has been piloted at Vaitele, Faleula and Aele Primary School since the beginning of the first term this year. 

As for any compensations for the teachers assistance or the parents helping out, Loau said the village councils for the piloted schools have stepped in to take on that cost. 

To make good use of money collected by the village council from punishing villagers and from fa’alavelave like bestowment those money can now be put to better use for giving some money to the teachers assistance, he said.  

“This is money going to a good cause and for the development of their children. 

“If every village can do this have that pool of money directed to give some monetary reward to these parents then it is for a better cause than them pocketing the money.”

The Minister hopes if the piloting phase goes well he would like the model to be adopted by other primary schools to address the overcrowding problem and shortage of teachers in schools. 

Evidence of overcrowded classrooms at primary level is reflected in the rate of students repeating in year 1 at primary level.  

According to the Statistical Digest 2018, the highest repeater rate is at year 1 and progressively decreases at other year levels of primary. 

“The repetition rate is very low in all year levels except year 1 level which shows 2.6% with a total number of 166 students,” stated the report. 

“Repetition rate is consistently higher for males than females at all year levels except at year 3 level.”

The report also noted the Drop Out Rate which is used to measure the trend of students leaving primary education without completion and its effect on the internal efficiency of the education system. 

The dropout rate for primary education fluctuates across all year levels, with the highest percentage of 8% recorded at the year 2 level. 

The drop out issue has also raised concern over the years in the Ministry of Education urging the need to conduct a research on the reasons why students leave the formal education system, stated the report. 

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