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By Tina Mata’afa

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Jan. 6) - Amosa o Savavau, American Samoa's first Samoan language university, will launch its pilot courses on January 20, with classes in Economics, Samoan Speech Composition, and Language Acquisition/Language Development to be held at the Samoana High School campus in Utulei.

[PIR editor’s note: Utulei is located just southeast of the capital city of Pago Pago on Tutuila island in American Samoa.]

"Schools always emphasize teaching in the English language," said Society for Indigenous Education in American Samoa (SIEAS) Administrator Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau. "But low test scores and ASCC [American Samoa Community College] students who end up in remedial courses show that it is not working. We should not let it continue."

Hunkin-Finau, longtime educator and former President of ASCC, will serve as lecturer for the Language Acquisition/Language Development course. She and SIEAS believe that education should be taught in one's "native language."

SIEAS has been working closely with professor and linguist Aiono Dr. Fanaafi Le Tagaloa, the founder of Amosa o Savavau in Upolu.

[PIR editor’s note: Upolu island is where the Western Samoa capital city of Apia is situated.]

In an interview last year, Aiono told Samoa News that it is "not fair for Samoan students to sit exams in English." SIEAS believes that instruction in Samoan, the first language of most local students, will take hold within the local school system, resulting in improved island wide learning results.

"Japanese learn in Japanese, Koreans learn in Korean, those in the Netherlands learn in Dutch, and Malaysians learn in Malaysian," Le Tagaloa Dr. Pita John Alailima told reporters during a press conference yesterday. "We should be using our own language to educate our youth." Le Tagaloa, who was schooled at Poyer, Samoa College, and in his teen years, Washington State, said that an assessor found "nothing wrong with his brain," but that the "language" was causing him difficulty in school. Soon after learning the English language, he began to excel in his studies and became the first Samoan student to be named in the Who's Who Among America's College Students publication. He will teach Economics (F 501), the school's first course that starts on January 20.

All classes will be held at Samoana High School. The first course is F 501, Economics, will start on January 20 and continue to Jan. 21, 27, 28, Feb. 3 and 4. On Fridays, the class will be held from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and on Saturdays, classes will be held from 8 a.m. through 11 a.m.

At the completion of 15 hours of classroom instruction, a student will have earned one course credit. A one-time registration fee of US$30 must be paid, and tuition per course is US$70.

Maulolo Leula Tavita Amosa, the first Masters degree recipient from the Amosa o Savavau in Upolu, will serve as lecturer for the Samoan Speech Composition course that begins in February. Maulolo is an author and the Samoa Government Director of Internal Affairs. Classes for this course start February 10 and last through February 11, 17, 18, 24 and 25. The hours are the same as the Economics course.

The third course, with Dr. Hunkin-Finau as lecturer, will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning February 7. Classes will continue through the 9th, 14, 16, 21 and the 23rd.

"Many parents believe that there is no success in indigenous education, and instruction in the Samoan language" said SIEAS Vice President Aeo'ainuu Aleki, a Samoan language activist, scholar and journalist.

SIEAS, which is led by President Muagututi'a John Fuimaono, held its first meeting for 2006 following a press conference at the guest house on the Fono meeting grounds in Fagatogo [southeast of Pago Pago].

"Later, we will be selecting our Board of Governors," said Muagututi'a. At the top of the meeting agenda was the selection of a Board of Governors to run Amosa o Savavau Tutuila ma Manu'a, sister school to the first Amosa in Upolu. A decision on who has been selected to the Board of Governors will be announced at a later date. Also present at the meeting was SIEAS member Monsignor Etuale Leoalofi, who will also serve as lecturer for the university.

"The local private sector has been very supportive, as well as the community," said SIEAS.

Classes are now being planned for March and April. Sign-ups for pilot courses will be held on January 10 through the 19 at the Samoana Campus from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Questions may be directed to Muagututi'a at 731-2322 or Aeo'ainuu Aleki at 258-8528.

January 13, 2006

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