Ticking the boxes and promoting essential reform at the N.U.S.

It has been an eventful week in Apia with the country playing host to a number of international conferences, attracting delegates from the region and beyond.

The 10th ABU Pacific Media Partnership Conference from August 5-7 – which was hosted by Samoa’s national broadcaster TV1 – brought together broadcasters, editors and content producers to set the scene for three days of intense discussions on the challenges facing the sector, and how the industry can continue to improve the quality of their content while navigating global challenges such as fake news and the growing threats posed by social media platforms.

In another part of town, meteorologists and their peers gathered for the 5th Pacific Meteorological Council conference, after a week of pre-meeting workshops and seminars. And with the region continuing to experience extreme weather, it was only right that a conference of this magnitude is convened here, to prepare our island communities for what lay ahead in terms of climate change adaptation and mitigation. 

And we note too the progress in the construction of the Pacific Climate Change Centre in Apia, which will only add value to the work that the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) currently does on climate change for the benefit of its members.

But it is the behind-the-scenes work at the National University of Samoa (NUS) – to improve the governance structure of the Office of the Vice Chancellor and begin discussions with students affected by an investigation and then sacking of Kenyan lecturer and conman Embiruka Osborne Nyandiva – which compelled us to sit up and applaud. 

We commend the University for being proactive on the issue, ensuring that the impact of the crisis surrounding the authenticity of the Kenyan academic’s qualifications were minimised, and alternative course work arrangements are now made for the 16 students who are affected. 

NUS Council Chairman, Aeau Chris Hazelman, told this newspaper that they have come to an amicable solution with the affected students and their parents.

“The University is at fault and as Council (Chairman) and as Acting Vice Chancellor, we take full responsibility and we have dealt with the students and parents and we came to an amicable solution".

Having done a fabulous job as the 2019 Pacific Games Committee Chair, the Minister of Education Sports and Culture is now back to the realities of his ministerial portfolio, mindful of the challenges that lay ahead. 

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For Loau Keneti Sio, the recruitment of the Kenyan national into Samoa’s only university, was a cardinal sin and an oversight that the Minister says the former vice-chancellor should be responsible for. 

“This man was hired by the vice chancellor under his authority to hire and fire staff at the N.U.S. and there will be changes to that aspect of the authoritative lane allocated for the vice chancellor of the University.” 

And Loau wasted no time in pushing through the proposed amendments with Aeau indicating in a recent interview that the “hire and fire” powers of the NUS vice-chancellor will be limited.

“We are currently going through a thorough review of the job description and it should be completed in the next two weeks," he said. 

"And then we will advertise the position for vice-chancellor later next month.”

The reforms on campus should be supported by all the relevant stakeholders including the students and their parents.

And as the weekend approaches and preparations begin in earnest for the Fathers Day celebrations this weekend, we hope the relevant Ministry in Government addressed some of the concerns that were highlighted in a 2017 Ombudsman Office Report on Vaiaata Prison in Savai’i. 

The report appealed to the Government to address the overcrowding issue that the facility and its inhabitants were facing and recommended that proper sanitation facilities should be considered for the prisoners. It is unacceptable and a health risk for the prisoners to use non-flushing toilets in this day and age.

“The increase in the number of prisoners is an issue because the capacity of the dormitory can only detain not more than five prisoners. Consequently, the dormitory was overcrowded, dirty and the air fairly stuffy.”

How the prisoner numbers increased from five to 50 over the years – despite the facility designed to only cater for not more than five inmates – confirms fears that officials in the Prisons and Correction Services can be out of touch with the realities on the ground.

Have a lovely Friday Samoa and God bless. 

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