The children of Faleatiu deserve better treatment

By The Editorial Board 30 September 2023, 10:00AM

Friday was not a good day for most Samoans as the Rugby World Cup hopes of reaching the quarterfinals were dashed by Japan.

Most Samoans stayed home to watch the game and this allowed for a morning without traffic. It is heartbreaking that the team could have done better and now once again Samoa is looking at finishing fourth in its pool.

However, what is more saddening than the loss at the RWC is the fact that more than 100 students at the burnt Faleatiu Primary School are still using a building as a classroom which is unsafe and structurally unsound.

Just over a week ago, a fire gutted the school destroying most of the school building except two rooms on the ground floor. What is sad is that the school staff thought not to use the church and its hall because the children might damage the furniture.

The next best option was to take them back to an unsafe building where they sit on the floor, share books and perhaps God forbid, wait for the ceiling to collapse on them.

The school principal did not complain about this, neither did the teachers, the community wanted to protect the church furniture and so far, there is no word from the Ministry of Education. It is a government school and nothing has been done to ensure that the education of these children is not affected.

In contrast, the island of Maui in Hawaii was destroyed by a wildfire and most homes and buildings destroyed. The authorities in Hawaii announced this week that priority for them would be ensuring that the children are able to return to school because that is the most important thing.

Samoa’s Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa fronted the world at the United Nations General Assembly telling world leaders what needs to be done about climate, ensuring the prosperity of Pacific nations and developments in Samoa.

That is a far cry if the government cannot even provide a safe space for a little over 100 children to continue their education.

It is very easy to say that children are gifts from God but yet the same gifts were driven out of the house of God. Does it not sadden the church minister in Faleatiu to see the conditions these children are being subjected to or is the furniture in the church worth more than the education and welfare of these children?

The practice which is being carried out at the school also violates the Education Act of 2009 which is the law governing the operations of any school in Samoa. Section 39 subsection 39(e) states that the management of the school promotes a safe, supportive and productive learning environment.

A father of three children in Faleatiu said there were other options available but the worst was chosen.

"After the fire, there were options to use a building next door owned by the church, as well as another building further up the road from the school," he said. "However, the staff decided not to because they were also considering the furniture of the church in case the kids might break it or damage it.

"They decided to bring them back to that one building that's left from the fire which is very risky because it was also affected by the fire.”

Just amazing. Will the staff who made the decision to keep the children in such horrid conditions bring their own children and subject them to the same conditions as they have done to the children of Faleatiu?

The Ministry of Education has to respond very fast to this situation. Firstly they have to ensure a safe learning environment for the children while the school is repaired. Secondly, take those teachers and the school principal to task for risking the lives of these children.

The quality of the education is at question here and yet the teachers are collecting their pay and subjecting the children to an unsafe environment and getting away with not providing them their best.

It would be safer for the children even if they studied out of a tent. Education is very important because it will ensure better lives for the children in the future, it ensures economic growth for Samoa, it will ensure a better society and a community, it will create a safer world and above all it will help many of these children realise their dreams.

Urgent action is needed for the children at Faleatiu. Let us wait and see how long it will take the authorities to ensure this.


By The Editorial Board 30 September 2023, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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