SAMOAN TEACHER CHARGED IN PUPIL ASSAULT APPEARS IN COURT

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8-year old died days after alleged beating

By Jasmine Netzler-Iose

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, March 31, 2012) – The teacher accused of the fatal blows that led to the death of an eight-year-old schoolgirl appeared in the District Court. Telesia Funai, 25, of Fausaga Safata, was accompanied to Court by several family members.

She appeared emotionless as she stood before Judge Mata Tuatagaloa to answer to a charge of assault in relation to the injuries of the late Teuila Aumalo Fuimaono.

The girl from Nu’usuatia, Safata was allegedly assaulted at the school by Funai days before her death. Sergeant Leota Ta’alo Finau, on behalf of the prosecution team, asked for the matter to be adjourned so they could finalise their investigations.

Judge Tuatagaloa agreed and adjourned the hearing to 10 April. Funai did not enter a plea. Meanwhile, Teuila’s death and a report about a 16-year-old student who was slapped at Leulumoega College, angered many members of the community including Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi.

In a statement, the Prime Minister called on the Ministry of Education to clamp down on abusive teachers. "The teaching profession is a calling in life all teachers must remember," said the Prime Minister. "During school hours, parents leave their children in the care of teachers. Teachers, therefore, should treat these students as they treat their own children.

"At such a young age, children are very vulnerable and delicate." The tragedy, the Prime Minister said, has brought the teaching profession again under close public scrutiny. It’s a reminder for the Ministry of Education to be vigilant in the monitoring of teacher performance. I am sure smacking children was never taught at any teachers college."

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