Cook Islands Merges Human Resources, Education Ministries

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Overlapping responsibilities prompted consolidation measures

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, July 3, 2012) – Education for Cook Islanders from the first day of school to further education at tertiary level will become more streamlined after the merger of the Department of National Human Resources Development (DNHRD) and the Ministry of Education.

Their amalgamation, effective from yesterday, comes as part of the Cook Islands government’s streamlining of the public sector, in which it is trying to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of its services.

The merged unit will work solely under the title of the Ministry of Education and be overseen by education secretary Sharyn Paio.

The five departments of national human resources development staff moved into the new education building in Nikao on Friday while remaining staff continue in their roles at tutors at the Hospitality and Tourism Training Centre and the Cook Islands Trades Training Centre.

Tutors at the two training facilities are employed on a contractual basis.

The merger also sees former director of the national human resource department Frances Topa-Fariu close the door on her public service life as she moves on to ‘serve our country’ with Red Cross Cook Islands.

"For me it’s a time to be both happy and sad," says Topa.

"Sad that I will be leaving the job of my passion and the most dedicated, hard working, results oriented, people centered and loyal staff, family and friends you can ever ask for culminated into one the DNHRD staff. It’s always a heart rending experience when you leave people who have become a family to you in your work life but, life must go on and we can only depend on the almighty to lead and guide us safely through the challenges of a new journey."

[PIR editor’s note: The New Zealand government has recently announced a pledge to provide US$9.7 million for Cook Islands education over the next three years, aimed at funding basic education, improved literacy levels and up-skilling students for employment after graduation.]

Recommendations for the merger was first made in 2004 as authorities believed that it made sense to merge the work of the education ministry and human resources development because they had many areas in which their work overlapped.

Prior to the merger, staff from education and human resources took part in a workshop to identify areas in which both government departments can improve their work, remove any overlaps and develop strategies to soften potential risks in their amalgamation.

The primarily role of the human resource department focused on raising the quality of education that comes after secondary school, including vocational and technical training.

"Our plan is to further strengthen in country training facilities and link them to the needs of the country and provide our people with opportunities," says Paio.

Keeping people in the Cook Islands during training and education is a key focus for the ministry of education by improving the quality of training and education on offer here and help develop the Cook Islands socially, economically and financially.

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