Retirees teaching for passion, cover shortage

Retired teachers are being asked to return to the classroom as the education system seeks to deal with a shortage of educators across the nation.  

The Minister of Education, Sports and Culture (M.E.S.C.), Loau Keneti Sio, downplayed claims about a shortage of teachers in Samoa, saying he was unaware of retired teachers being employed to fill gaps in classrooms. 

The Minister was contacted for a comment after the Samoa Observer was informed that the Ministry was asking retired teachers to get back into the classroom. 

Sources also said that teachers due for retirement were being kept on to combat a shortage of front line staff. 

The Minister said he was not aware of any shortage but asked to set up an appointment to discuss the matter. 

Attempts to do so this week have failed, with his Secretary saying he has been too busy for an interview. 

Text messages have also not been responded to. 

Two long-serving educators who did not wish to be named confirmed to the Samoa Observer on Monday that there is a teacher shortage that is extending teachers’ classroom careers.  Some teachers have taken up contracts to teach or work as school administrators for M.E.S.C. after they have officially retired from the profession. 

A retired science teacher for Avele College, Fa’atoia Malele, who is still being called to provide his services at the school, said that there was a great need for science teachers across the nation. 

“There is a shortage in the numbers of Science teachers like myself in Samoa,” he said.

The 66-year-old added that the retirement age for teachers is 55.

“There is an ongoing effort by the Government to increase the interest of students in science education [field] or science graduates so that they can become engineers or doctors in the future.”

He added that there is a need for science graduates because the Government has so many projects that require scientific experts such as engineers and the public service is reluctant to source experts from overseas. 

“I have been a teacher for close to 20 years,” he said.  

“I think maybe they [M.E.S.C.] have wanted to retire us but there is a growing need every year.”

However, Mr. Malele said he continues to provide his teaching services despite passing retirement age for the greater good of Samoa’s children and to assist the Government’s goals.

He said that for a retired teacher to re-apply, they need a medical assessment from a doctor to show they are fit to continue working.

Another retired teacher said she chose to continue teaching after reaching retirement age because classroom work is her passion.   

Speaking to this newspaper, a food and textiles technology teacher for Vaimauga College, So'o To'oalo Sanerivi, has said that she has been a teacher for more than 30 years.

The 66-year-old added that being a teacher is similar to raising children because parents are the first teachers:

“I chose to continue my service because I still have the strength and knowledge in helping the students’ of the nation and also something to share with other teachers," she said.

“When we reach retirement age it is our choice to continue or not. I want to continue to help and share my expertise; students are the centre of teaching. I also encourage others to choose the field of education as a career, because whoever the Prime Minister, Minister, or anyone is they all went through schools and were taught by teachers.”

The shortage of educators, particularly administrative vacancies for school Principals, has been evident for some time in the weekly Public Service Commission (P.S.C.) circular.  In the P.S.C. on Monday, 14 September, 2020 issue, there are a total of 10 advertised vacancies for Principals and two for deputy Principals.

M.E.S.C. is accepting applications for Principals at: Vaisala Primary School, Faleapuna, Primary School, Apolima Primary School, Manunu Primary School, Palauli I Sisifo Primary School, Tiavea Primary School, Uafato Primary School, Pata Primary School, Falefa Primary School and Faleula Primary School.

Mataaevave College and Lepa and Lotofaga College are in search of Vice Principals. 

*Additional reporting by: Tina Mata’afa Tufele. 


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