Cheers to another year of learning, growing

After a disruptive academic year in 2019, the students of Samoa are back in the classrooms ready for another year of learning and growing.

Given everything this nation has been through, it is heartwarming to see the little ones and the not so little ones in their brand new school uniforms and jandals, heading to the classrooms. The bright colours, smiles and their eagerness to get to their places of learning, brings normalcy after a tumultuous few months in Samoa.

Of course there is sadness thinking about the victims of the measles tragedy, especially students, whose parents and families would no doubt be feeling their absence, in more ways than we could think of.

But life must go on.

If there is anything, those deaths should make us appreciative of the gift of life even more. As sad as we are that some lives were taken, we are grateful that the majority of our school students are back in the classrooms today, eager and willing to learn. This in itself is priceless. It’s a moment to cherish.

Speaking of priceless moments, it’s wonderful to see that some schools are still holding prizegivings to acknowledge student excellence and hard work from the previous year.

The measles might have robbed many students of their moment of glory but at least holding these prizegivings now will bring a sense of closure, especially for senior students who are moving on to bigger and better opportunities.

So we take this opportunity to congratulate all the prize winners and everyone involved. We are under no illusion that you have made your parents, families, churches and villages very proud.

That said, this is a new year and new opportunities are on the horizon. It’s both an exciting and anxious time for everyone. What we are certain of, though, is that while the year changes, some things remain constant, such as: What you get out  of school depends on how much you are willing to put into it.

This applies to students, teachers, parents as well as the Government which plays such a critical role in the development of our education system.

Looking ahead at the new academic year, which for most students started this week, the work of the education sector in Samoa has been clearly cut out. The challenges are enormous. Faults identified from last year have hopefully been taken into consideration, so that there is improvement this year.

We also maintain that the Government needs to pay more attention to the development of quality teachers who can bring the best out of our students. It’s great to have multi-million-tala school buildings and facilities but those things don’t teach smarter students, teachers do. Which means the focus should be on ensuring the quality of teachers is improved.

During the past few weeks, this newspaper has highlighted a couple of studies pointing to fears of Samoa facing a teacher shortage in the future. This is an area that requires urgent attention and action. If the Government truly believes that education holds the key to a brighter future for Samoa, it has got to walk the talk.

How? Teachers need to be paid well and given incentives, so they are driven to give their best to their students.

The truth is that education is a team effort. It involves more than just the Government, teachers and classrooms. Teachers and the education system cannot do it alone. They need our help. We are talking about parents, guardians and families, you are equally important. Indeed, the learning environment should extend far beyond the classroom.

As this column has suggested over the years, while the teacher’s task is to teach, the job of parents, guardians and families is to discipline their children so the teachers can do what they are paid to do.

In Samoa today, an increasing number of students lack the discipline of yesteryears, which makes the job of teachers extremely difficult.

What we want to say is that education starts at home. It begins with life lessons and discipline, which the parents should provide so that when students arrive in the classrooms, the teachers shouldn’t have to waste their time trying to be the parent and the teacher.

Someone once said that a child without boundaries is like a house without walls. In other words, some of us parents need to get tougher on our children and stop blaming the teachers when they fail.

Everyone has a role to play in raising smarter and a better educated generation of Samoans. This is a new year. It’s a new season for many students. Let 2020 be an excellent academic year, one where all of Samoa’s students embrace the prospects of learning, succeeding and then moving on to contribute to the development of this country we call home.

Have a great Thursday Samoa, God bless!

 

 

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