The good news, the bad and the ugly including that exam schedule

By Alexander Rheeney, 10 June 2019

There has been a number of positive developments in Samoa in the last week, which made the headlines in your newspaper. And immediately following the country's 57th Independence anniversary celebrations, we can only assume that Samoa is headed for greater times.

The commissioning of Samoa’s first online taxi service, probably a first not just in Samoa but also in the Pacific Islands, augurs well for both locals and visitors to this island paradise. Not forgetting the green light from the Cabinet for the relevant authorities to begin work to put up street addresses, beginning with Apia. Taxi services will be some of the first beneficiaries of street addresses.

And Samoa’s battle against non-communicable diseases (NCD) got a shot in the arm with the Ministry of Health (MOH) recently announcing a nationwide ban on junk food being sold at schools. Top marks to the Ministry’s school nutritionist, Darryl Lafai Pupi and his team for spearheading the move. And their efforts will be complemented by the World Bank, who have announced funding support for research, which would enable the collection of data to assist the Samoa Government improve in its formulation of taxation policy on tobacco and alcohol consumption and unhealthy diet, as a response to the health crisis. Again, this is another plus for Samoa with the World Bank coming on board, in its battle against lifestyle diseases. And not forgetting too the contribution of local partners such as Nobesity Samoa, which continues to set the benchmarks, when it comes to getting young Samoans to embrace a healthy lifestyle.

And we cannot forget the herculean effort of our new world champion Don Opeloge, who put Samoa on the map with his impressive performance at the Junior World Weightlifting Championships in Fiji recently. And compatriot and colleague Feagaiga Stowers also put in a powerhouse performance, when she topped the +87 kg category snatch event with a lift of 124 kg, and came second in the clean and jerk (151 kilograms) and total (275 kilograms) competitions in Fiji. There is no doubt who the favourites will be, when the Pacific Games weightlifting competition kicks off next month. The next generation of aspiring Samoan weightlifters will be inspired by their work ethic.

However, revelations at the weekend of plans by the National University of Samoa (NUS) to schedule examinations for their Foundation Year students over one week, instead of two weeks leaves a sour taste in the mouth after a week of positive developments. Surely, the university administrators did not just wake up overnight, and decided to change the goal post? For a higher learning institution, you must admit that the N.U.S. lacks proper communication skills with its most important stakeholders — parents. Or did the university just expect to force this new change in policy down the throats of parents without consultation? The parents have every right to protest the change in their children’s examination schedule, it is not fair and there should have been consultations between all parties, before the changes are brought in. Unfortunately, this change will only create anxiety and is likely to have an impact on a student’s overall performance. The N.U.S. administration should shelve the proposal and begin a consultation process with everyone, discuss the merits (or the lack of it) of the new examination schedule, and agree on a way forward.

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And to those public servants, villagers and volunteers who continue to spare their weekend to cleaning Apia, turning out in numbers again on Saturday to clean Apia’s foreshore, confirms their commitment and belief in a litter and plastic-free Samoa. You are indeed our green warriors and we commend you for leading the way in promoting sustainable waste management practices amongst Samoans. Special mention should be made of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Programme (S.P.R.E.P.) who continue to play a leadership role in this initiative.

And the exit of the former Samoa Tourism Authority C.E.O. Papalii Sonja Hunter marks the end of an era, and the start of a new chapter with her successor Faamatuaina Lenatai Suifua.

In her farewell speech last Friday, she briefly mentioned her new role at the National Council of Churches (N.C.C.) and putting more effort into her other job as a board member of local television station TV1.

“As you all know, I am a member of the TV1 board. Back then, I never interfere to be involved in anything that had to do with TV1 because I fear conflict of interest so I just leave the workers to do their own jobs and consult with whoever.

“But now I am telling you, I will be involved in the board more often now so please do not forget that. And whatever that will be submitted, I will check them because I have a good friendship with the owner and so we can keep a good reputation," she said.

Let’s just hope that her comments were just gibberish swayed by the occasion last Friday evening, and plans to censor one of Samoa’s local television stations was far from her mind. The last thing Samoa’s thriving media industry needs is censorship!

Have a lovely Monday and a wonderful working week Samoa, God bless.

By Alexander Rheeney, 10 June 2019

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