TONGA EDUCATION MINISTER PLANNING CHANGES

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Strategic Planning Week underway

By Josephine Latu NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Taimi Media Network, , 2011) – Staff at the Ministry of Education, Women’s Affairs and Culture (MEWAC) in Tonga are gearing up for some major adjustments under new minister Dr ‘Ana Taufe’ulungaki.

[PIR editor’s note: Dr ‘Ana Taufe’ulungaki is the only female member appointed among the 26 newly elected members of Parliament in Tonga.]

On the list new staff recruitment methods, staff reshuffling, various policy reviews, and a revived focus on the needs of the child as a guiding principle for the department.

"We don’t want to change for change’s sake. But if something needs to be improved in this ministry, I will not do it without discussing these plans with you," Dr Taufe’ulungaki announced in her address at the ministry’s annual Strategic Planning Week currently taking place at the Tonga National Centre.

Staff take this time to strategize the year and roll out plans for the next four years.

Dr Taufe’ulungaki declared her priority to review the teacher recruitment process and strengthen teachers’ professional development:

"We are beginning talks with the [Public Services Commission (PSC)] to let the ministry recruit its own teachers and for PSC to only handle disciplinary measures which have to be on par with the rest of civil service".

The Public Services Commission handles all incoming recruitments.

New efforts are also underway to register every teacher in Tonga and ensure they are qualified. This will create a pool of relieving teachers on hand.

Dr Taufe’ulungaki added that staff positions will be reviewed, due to the number of staff holding Acting positions, but without benefits or allowance. She also mentioned those who have worked for many years, some for more than a decade without a pay rise because they have reached the maximum pay level for their position. Maternity leave policies could also change.

The minister announced plans to strengthen the Women’s Affairs and Culture sectors of the ministry, usually overshadowed by Education. A new deputy director will be appointed to lead the Culture department and a staff increase at Women’s Affairs is also anticipated.

"There will be some reshuffling of staff but more details on that will come later," she said.

Dr Taufe’ulungaki said she was a "working minister" but that she needed open communication and full information support from her staff in order to be able to convince Cabinet to dedicate more resources to the ministry. Currently government allocates 16 percent of the national budget to the education department although international standards recommend 20 percent.

"It’s great that she’s brought back our focus to our core functions. But we just hope that other Cabinet ministers will support our needs because it really depends on them. Cabinet should realize that investment in education is key to avoiding future problems," said MEWAC Deputy Director Lucy Moala Mafi.

Dr Taufe’ulungaki has also called for a concerted drive to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The ministry’s Strategic Planning Week ends Friday.

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