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By Tootoo Aleki

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (January 21, 2000 – Samoa News)---Education officials told the Senate Education Committee that they don’t have the manpower to handle an increase in truancy at the local public schools.

"The seven truant officers we have now are simply not enough to cope with the situation," said Education Director Dr. Sili Kerisiano Sataua.

The public hearing was to examine an Administration bill that strengthens the DOE's position in fighting truancy. Among other items, the bill proposes to raise the penalty on parents of truants from $15 to $300.

Some said a $300 fine is too expensive for parents.

Lack of discipline is one factor behind the increase in truancy.

"The truants come mainly from the Tafuna area and from families who are not living under traditional village council control," Sili said.

"I think it is very important that schools and the DOE work together with village councils because they . . . put the problem kids in their place," said Senator Tuanaitau F. Tuia.

Truancy does not occur in the Marist Brothers School, said the school's principal, Catechist Paselio Lemalu, FK.

"We don't have truants because discipline is in order in our schools," he said. "We work closely with parents when strange behavior arises from any of the students. We also have an arrangement with the police at the Tafuna Substation. They have our permission to cart any of our students back to the Malaeloa campus when they see them loitering anywhere during school times."

Jack Burns of South Pacific Academy agreed that truancy is low or non-existent in private schools.

"Public schools do not have a choice set in the law," Sili said. "They just take in whoever is there because that is the law."

Items from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to

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