"Dirty politics" a factor in teacher shortage
The Minister of Education, Sports and Culture (M.E.S.C.), Loau Keneti Sio, has blamed politicians and what he described as “their dirty politics” for the shortage of teachers.
He has also raised the possibility of merging schools for villages with smaller populations to address the shortage, when raising the issue in Parliament, saying that there are too many school buildings with small rolls and even fewer teachers.
And one cause of the shortage is due to politicians wanting to score political points with the construction of new school buildings, so they could look good in the eyes of the voters, the Minister claimed.
He described the actions of his colleague politicians as "dirty politics" when raising his concerns.
According to the Minister, statistics from the M.E.S.C. show that there are clearly not enough teachers to meet the demand from each village, to have a school of their own.
In some cases, the Minister said some villages only have eight families and they still demand a school, when it would make more sense to merge the schools with the next village to maximise the use of resources.
He used the villages of Falevao and Lalomauga as an example, saying a"banana patch" separated the small villages, but they still have their own schools.
“Our human resources are taken up there but they could’ve merged [the schools],” he said.
“Each Member of Parliament wants their own school building in each village but they are not considering a merger [of the school] that is the reason why there is a shortage of teachers [in some schools].”
“But there are more than enough teachers to teach the number of students we have…”
The explanation drew a reaction from Faleata West’s M.P., Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, who reminded the Minister that schools are only allowed to be constructed if they are approved by the Minister and the M.E.S.C.
“Before a school is constructed, the approval is given by the Ministry of Education on what should be done and what not,” said Lealailepule.
“Members are happy to construct schools here and there but who gives the approval? It is the Ministry of Education that allows it and they should make that decision based on resources and teachers available.”
Leala pointed out there are some schools that do not have a science laboratory and libraries, adding that politicians are happy with the praises they get, when schools are dedicated yet there are issues in terms of resources and teachers are overlooked.
But Minister Loau said the Ministry cannot do much when the buildings are already constructed.
“Am I supposed to pull down the school buildings when its already being built?” he asked.
In acknowledging the point raised by Leala, the Minister of Education said he is correct. He said there are many small villages that have their own schools and it is affecting human resources.
Loau maintained that from the statistics they have, there are enough teachers to accommodate for students.
According to the Ministry of Education Statistical Digest 2018, it states there is one teacher for every 15 students in Early Childhood Education.
In the primary level there is one teacher for 30 students and one teacher for every 20 students in the secondary school.
Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, then intervened and told Loau that perhaps the right people he should be talking to about the issue are the Members in the House instead of the general public.
Fiame agreed that almost each district has their own school and college and the Minister should be talking directly to the M.Ps about the issue.
In response, Loau said it is important that the elderly men from the villages are listening as well because they are the ones pressuring the Government for new school buildings.
He said it is the M.Ps who are “seeking praise and their dirty politics” who are wanting new school buildings without doing what is right.