SAMOA OFFICIALS DISAGREE OVER SCHOOL CLOSURES

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While some high schools to be upgraded, Vaipouli will close

By Jasmine Netzler-Iose

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Feb. 7, 2012) – Government’s decision to close Vaipouli College is hard to accept, says one of two Salega MPs, Afualo Dr. Wood Salele. Afualo made his views known during the Tautua Samoa Party’s press conference at Matautu, yesterday.

"I may not have been educated at Vaipouli, but I feel sad about it closing down because I am from Savai’i," he said.

Vaipouli is the only government college on the big island.

Minister of Education, Magele Muiliu Magele said the closure was in line with a Ministry policy to ensure students do not have to travel and live away from home to get an education. At the time he said most districts now have "established colleges so students do not have to live away from home."

[PIR editor’s note: Last week, the government announced it would be reclassifying certain schools as district colleges, while secondary schools in rural areas would become regular colleges in an effort to help from overcrowding urban areas, a move that is also indicative of the progress schools in rural areas have made. Colleges in Apia will also no longer be managed by government, directed instead through a village committee.]

The Minister also said the teacher shortage at government schools is expected to be alleviated in three years time. He told the House that the main reason for the shortage was through the implementation of a ministry policy to reduce the teacher/student ratio "to allow for better quality of delivery of the service."

The policy would mean that teachers at primary schools would end up teaching no more than 30 students in a class. As well, secondary school teachers would be expected to teach classes of no more than 20 students.

Afualo disagrees. He said the closure of Vaipouli and plans to change colleges in town into district schools will have a detrimental impact on the education system. "The issue now is that most of these colleges [in town] are in Vaimauga," he said. "How will that work? What will become of Faleata where there is only one College there? How will it work?

Tautua Whip, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi said there is nothing concrete to say the results of district schools were better than colleges in town. In the unlikely event that there is some truth to the Government’s claim, Lealailepule said it must be analyzed if these students got scholarships and are attending university.

"We are not against the idea to close down these colleges and to change them into district schools but we don’t believe the Ministry of Education has enough resources or teachers to cater to this."

Lealailepule said it would take a long time to implement the plan. "It is one thing to come up with the idea and another altogether to action it."

Lealailepule said the Government should look at addressing the shortage of teachers first before anything else.

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