Giving teachers the tools to empower citizens including farmers 

The timing of the World Teachers Day celebrations in Samoa last weekend, immediately following the 2nd Biennial Pacific Week of Agriculture from September 30 to October 4, was perhaps coincidental. 

The one-week event saw governments from around the Pacific as well as regional organisations converge on Samoa. There were a number of meetings, side-events and two major conferences that preceded each other – a special session of the Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services early in the week before the Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry Meeting last Friday – to bring the biannual regional conference to a close.

Notably, Samoa’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, appealed to the delegates to have farmers in the Pacific islands at the center of their discussions. 

“Therefore, I urge you to have the implementers and farmers in mind, when you are discussing the main objectives or expected favourable results and outcomes,” said Minister Lopao'o Natanielu Mua.

A day later, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Natural Resources and Environment, expressed optimism the conferences last week would have enabled the sharing of information, expertise and knowledge between the participating island nations and stakeholders such as regional organisations.

“When a country rates highly in possessing excellent food and nutrition security, then it is a country that is regarded as having a contented people, happy people and therefore regarded as a prosperous nation,” said the Deputy PM Fiame Naomi Mataafa.

Fast forward to last weekend – a day after the conference delegates had started to return to their home countries – teachers around Samoa gathered to mark World Teachers Day.

The Minister of Education Sports and Culture, Loau Keneti Sio, then announced that he is aware of the push by teachers for better salary packages and added he is now keen on promoting quality teachers.

“The Government is trying to upgrade teachers’ qualifications from Certificates to Diplomas and Diplomas to Bachelor's by 2020,” he said. 

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“As a result of this upskilling it will mean that teachers will have better pay and a higher qualification on their resume and these schemes are all covered by government.” 

You may be wondering what is the link between last week’s regional agriculture and fisheries-focused conferences and the World Teachers Day celebrations? Well, in today’s day and age, a literate farmer is more empowered to access benefits for his or her crops (including access to markets) unlike an illiterate one. 

Do you remember the famous quote by Chinese philosopher Confucius? It goes something like this: “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you’ve fed him for a lifetime”.

But in the Samoan and Pacific island context in this day and age, how can you teach a man or a woman to be a farmer or a fisherman or woman, without giving them the basic foundations of education – learning how to read and write. They would need to be literate in order to read instructions on how to access small loans from the Development Bank of Samoa; they would need to be literate to understand the requirements of getting their crops exported; they would need to be literate in order to articulate well the challenges that they face in their plantations to Ministries such as Agriculture and Fisheries.

The above and more are the reasons why teachers are often seen as the foundation layers of a prosperous nation. It is why veteran educator, Lafaitele Aiga Esera, made a plea for the country to do more to celebrate the role of teachers.

“Behind all the other professions, lies the important work of teachers who work effortlessly in making sure that our children [are] well-educated,” she said. 

“We only celebrate their roles once a year and we should use this day to appreciate the hard work they do and their contribution to Samoa; [teachers] play a very vital role in our society.

“We need to celebrate, motivate and encourage our teachers.

“Commemorating Teachers' Day provides our teachers with the opportunity to come together and share their experiences and skills and learn from one another.”

We appreciate the Education Minister acknowledging the role that teachers play in Samoa’s development and pushing for them to be upskilled, in order to be able to lay the foundations of the country’s next generation of leaders. 

Have a wonderful Monday Samoa and God bless.

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