Former principal, candidate questions reforms

A former secondary school principal and Tautua Samoa political party candidate has expressed concern at what he describes as the caretaker Government's “sudden overhaul” of the education system.

Tapuai Etuale Vui, who resigned as the Savai'i Sisifo College Principal to contest the Salega East seat, said the reforms that the Government promulgated in July last year were pushed through so quickly that the teachers were not prepared.

The Government announced last July that it would remove Year 13 in favour of a new system of having secondary schools last from Years 9 to 12 with the changes becoming effective this year.

But Tapuai told the TV2 Soalepule programme that the reforms were pushed through so fast that the teachers were not privy to awareness to advise of the changes. 

"This change took place very quickly, principals are still complaining that a significant amount of time should have been spent on the planning and implementation of the four levels in high schools,” he said.

"The teachers should also be aware of these changes and prepare extensively for these four levels, a decrease from the five levels originally."

The Ministry of Education Sports and Culture (MESC) announced last year that the rationale for the change to a four-year level is due to the rising dropout rates starting from Year 9, 10, 11, 12 and Year 13 over the last five years.

It believes the trend is being caused by the introduction of specialist learning material too late in students' educational programmes.

And while Tapuai acknowledged the high student dropout rates, he said the real issue is parents’ affordability of school fees.

"There are dropouts from colleges, but it is due to school fees and the fees required to sit the S.S.L.C. [Secondary School Leaving Certificate] and S.S.C. [Secondary School CErtificate]," he said.

"On the tertiary level and university, I notice and bear witness that there are very bright students from Savai’i who take only one semester and then you see them in Savai’i again; when we ask, they say it's because they have no money for the fee.

"And we have already reached out and advised the national university management to look into alternatives to ensure these students are not let go from school; to reduce the school fee or give them chances."

Tapuai has dedicated his life to educating students in the district over the last 37 years with 26 years as Principal for Savaii Sisifo College.  

He added that Tautua Samoa has a plan in place to combat the problem through a National Education Fund, which will allow the granting of student loans to students to ensure everyone receives quality education.

Tautua Party leader, Afualo Luagalau Dr. Wood had said in a separate interview that the Fund will be modelled on the National Provident Fund, from which the public are able to take loans and repay with minimal interest.

"Every student will be entitled to this fund," he said. "In fact, once a baby is born, he or she will automatically be registered in the database of the fund.

"This will take off the burden that most parents face once their children are in university, not being able to afford the more than a thousand dollars school fees.

"There is joy in their children making it into the National University of Samoa, but it is not a small amount of money, most cannot afford it."

Afualo said once the fund is established there will be no excuse as to why Samoa's students are not well educated.

Currently public schools are free from Year 1 to Year 11. 

But Afualo questioned why it does not also cover the two most important years of a student's college life – Years 12 and 13.

He described the policy as analogous to the Samoan proverb:  like throwing the chicken while holding the sennit (E togi le moa ae uu le afa).

The party is confident that the fund will boost Samoa's education sector and extend new opportunities to students and also proposes establishing National University of Samoa (N.U.S.) campus in Savai'i.

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