Promoting quality education is the drive behind the establishment of a third University in Samoa.
The announcement was made by Christopher Gounder, a former English Lecturer at the National University of Samoa.
The University is to be called “The Oceania A+ Educational solution University (O.A.E.S.U).” It is planned to be located at Poutasi Falealili, opposite the Police Station at Poutasi where the Poutasi Development Trust is located.
According to Mr. Gounder, the university is mainly for “the students of Samoa.”
“I have taught at various institutes in Samoa. And for the last three years, I have been teaching English at the National University of Samoa,” he said.
“I have taught many students and touched lives of many students. I haven’t been only a lecturer, but I have also been a mentor and a counsellor for many students at no cost.”
Mr. Gounder is Indo-Fijian.
“My wife is from Samoa and we have seven children,” he said.
“My children, their first language is Samoan. I might look Indian to you but my heart is Samoa.
“I have resigned from the National University of Samoa, and we decided to start a third University in Samoa.”
And where will they get lecturers and people to teach?
“My brother who is a lawyer from Fiji has offered his services to teach law,” said Mr. Gounder.
“My brother in Dubai has two PhD’s, one in business administration and another one in international banking.
“He can teach Chemistry and Agriculture, he will be teaching the students through Skype mode. I have a sister who is in Malaysia, her field is education. She will teach education from there, her husband is an accountant, and he will teach accounting.
“I will teach English and I can also teach horticulture. I have also done Business Administration, I am doing my Masters in Business Administration and I have four more papers to do and I will get my Masters.”
Mr. Gounder said he is a true believer that qualifications need to be relevant to the needs of the work force.
“I firmly believe that if you only have credentials and don’t have work, then you are wasting time. I don’t want to take away the “mamalu” (honor) from those who have achieved high qualification, I salute you.
“But I urge at the same time to give fair opportunity to the students to rise up to the level and be productive citizens of Samoa.”
He said polishing the pearls of Samoa is the main objective of setting up this third University.
The pearls he was referring to are the students.
“When I went to S.Q.A. seeking for accreditation, I posed them two questions.
“We profess that we are the Pearl of the Pacific. So my questions are where are the pearls of Samoa and who are the pearls of Samoa?
“It is the people who take up responsible positions and our pearls to be are our students. And if we nurture them well and teach them policies such as honesty, governance, humility, respect and all the other values that we learn at church and from our elders, then they will shine brighter than the stars.
“If we don’t use those values and don’t teach them, then we can no longer be called the Pearl of the Pacific.
“I mean we are all pearls and we need to polish it and make sure that our light shines throughout for others to see.
“You know we all want the best for our children, and we want them to grow up successfully, and that is why we need to lift the quality of education to a new height.
“We know that in Samoa, we hire good coaches to lift Samoa’s name in terms of rugby. And we pay them a lot of money for their time here in Samoa. What about the coaches to coach our children and to make sure that they get quality education? They should be compensated properly.
“The teachers shape the children to be lawyers; teachers, accountants and Prime Minister, and teachers should be compensated too.”
Nevertheless, Mr. Gounder also believes that teachers are very influential people in anyone’s life.
“I also know that all the leaders of Samoa can agree with me on this that all the teachers that taught them had somehow influenced their lives and learned something from them.”
In addition, Mr. Gounder, O.A.E.S.U also offers exclusive education for children with disability.
“These are children with very big and brave hearts.
“A classic example of this is a few years back, when I was teaching at Sauniatu. I remember it was Independence Day Celebration. As usual people, organizations and schools gather for the parade. At the parade, a lot of people were complaining about the heat, how hot it was and they were able people. People who can move around and do things normally.
“But what amazed me was that the students from Loto Taumafai were so happy and smiling. I said to myself, wow the people who don’t have the capacity like us are grateful and they appreciate life.
“And that is why I want to run this University, to promote exclusive and good quality education.”
Enrolment starts on the 28 of this month and courses will begin on the first week of March, said Mr. Gounder.
The O.A.E.S.U also offers Foundation Programmes and Bachelor Degree Programmes.
They have no administration fee.
However, the cost of one course is $350 tala. But they will have upfront tuition fee.
“This is to avoid the issues where the students are sent home during and just before exams time because of school fees.
“This will also encourage the parents to prioritise the children’s education. They should know that children’s education is an investment, so they should be prepared and save money for it.
“They should budget their money and make sure that we prioritise our children’s education.”
The O.A.E.S.U also offers pathway courses such as tourism and others.
“We will build to the level and degree courses and pathway courses as well.
“We will also have flexibility courses, and when I say flexibility, we are not going to allow them have mediocre performance; we will help them reach to the standards, because we believe in quality education, and that’s what Samoa needs. We also offer Tourism Courses at a very low price.
“And once we have quality education in Samoa, then we can put a dot on the map saying yes, we provide quality education in Samoa.
“That’s why we added A+ to the name of the University because I believe we can only offer quality services.
“Our customers are the students. They bring in the money and dollars and they should be treated as queens and kings. We should treat them well.
“I believe that if we want our pearls to shine and for Samoa to rise up to the high level, then we should teach in English.
“I believe that English is the backbone of success and if anyone wants to refute that, then I am willing to have a talk with that person.
“We need to lift the standard, not lower the standard, but to lift it up to a higher level.”
Asked he has been given the okay from the Samoa Qualifications Authority to start his University, he said “not yet.
“I’m in the process of getting the okay from S.Q.A.”
However, for now, all he wants is the support of Samoa.
“I just want the support of Samoa because it is for the people of Samoa.
“With this University, we dream big and starting small steps towards achieving it. You know education will change mindsets. And if we really want our children to shine, then we really need to work together.”