On Teachers’ Day today, let the Government be reminded it should put money where its mouth is

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Today in Samoa is a very special day. 

Teachers’ Day is being marked throughout the country by different programmes and activities involving students and members of the community. The events today are the culmination of a host of activities dedicated to honouring teachers in Samoa for the past week.

This year’s celebration though comes with a twist. On page 7 of the newspaper you are reading, details about the inaugural Teachers’ Day Pageant are being highlighted. 

With support from Bluesky Samoa and Business Systems Limited, selected teachers throughout country will vie for the title of Mr. and Miss Teachers’ Pageant at the C.C.C.S. Youth Hall tonight. 

If you have nothing planned, we encourage you to go along and support them. It’s a little different. We know. But why not? 

Now and then it’s good to do something different, out of the ordinary and having teachers as contestants for a beauty pageant is certainly not something you would see every day. 

 “Our teachers deserve to be recognized and this is a way for them to showcase their talents and most importantly to discuss issues affecting educators…” says M.E.S.C A.C.E.O. Tauti Fa’atamali’i Jenny Lauano.

So what are some of those issues today?

Well let us remind again once more about the teachers’ plight and their fight for better salaries. 

It goes without saying that teachers play a critical role in the development of the future of a nation. At the end of the day, it is the teachers who teach students, not flash buildings and impressive programmes on paper just so that certain people can tick their boxes. 

Let us also remind that regardless of whatever programmes a school uses, those programmes can only work if they are delivered by a knowledgeable teacher. Great programmes in the hands of a poor teacher will only lead to failure. 

Which means our focus, if we want to improve literacy and numeracy, should not be about programmes and structures. We should instead focus on ensuring that quality teachers are supported in the work they do.

We have always maintained that teachers in Samoa deserve better pay. What we sow is ultimately what we reap. And lets not kid ourselves, if we sow peanuts in the development of teachers; you know what we will reap.

At the end of the day, teaching is a job and teachers do it for money. Let’s not forget that most teachers are mothers and fathers. They are leaders in their churches and villages, to whom they also hold responsibilities. Responsibilities that require money and in Samoa today, lots of it.

The point is that the government has got to start getting serious about recruiting and paying the best teachers to ensure our education system yields the best results. 

We are aware that the government has established a pathway for teachers to improve their salaries. That involves further education for teachers who don’t have the necessary qualifications to allow them to have higher salaries. It’s a good start but that’s going to take years. 

As it stands, we are under absolutely no illusion that if education in Samoa is to improve, teachers need to be paid well. It’s a known fact that teachers continue to wallow among the lowest paid public servants in this country. Even worse is the fact they continue to be given all sorts of silly excuses as to why salaries – for many of them - remain poor. 

The point is that, if the government means what it says about education, it really is time to put money where its mouth is. Instead of wasting all those millions of dollars on an unnecessary airport at Tiavea, wouldn’t it be better to inject that money into paying more for teachers?

That said, today we want to acknowledge and thank all the teachers of Samoa. We want you to know we appreciate what you do and we pray that you will never give up on the future of this nation. 

Everyone has a teacher, or several teachers to thank. Whether you are the Head of State or a subsistent farmer in the remotest part of Samoa, at some point in this life, you would have had to be educated by a teacher of some sort.

Take some time to thank them today, acknowledge their hard work and appreciate them for what they do.

Happy Teachers’ Day Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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