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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i


Calls Made To Review Punishment In Samoa Schools
Parents may be asked if they will discipline students

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, Nov. 19, 2012) – Too many teachers in Samoa are complaining against the Ministry of Education’s current stand on corporal punishment. Many teachers believe that there are "too many policies" and there is little decisive action. In fact many decisions on corporal punishment have had a negative impact and teachers are left with very little protection.

These and others have warranted the Ministry to review these policies and to address the issue of corporal punishment.

The Ministry’s new Chief Executive Officer, Matafeo Falanaipupu Tanielu Aiafi agrees that the complaints are constructive and that a review is overdue.

The teachers complaints are generally based on the implementation of corporal punishment policies which they believe have left the teachers open and vulnerable to the unruly behavior and attacks from some students.

"These issues should be addressed well," said Matafeo.

Matafeo remembers his school days when the school Principal and Deputy Principal were the only people with the authority to discipline a student by way of sasa using a strap.

"The Ministry stands for the teachers and there is a need for the Ministry, the Public Service Commission and parents to work and address the issues together," said Matafeo.

He strongly believes that for the system to work well, the policies need to be reviewed and upgraded regularly.

Mataefo believes that since the phasing out of corporal punishment, "we see more and more fighting on the streets amongst students of different schools."

Matafeo’s goal is for the Ministry to deliver fairness in dealing with issues presented to the Ministry and he is asking for support from all parties involved in the development of the education system.

He said that one option to be considered is to "send out a questionnaire to parents informing them to tick yes if they agree to discipline their child or no if they disagree," said Matafeo.

The Ministry has also been accused of bias in dealing with several disciplinary cases from various schools.

Matafeo referred the issue to Moana Petaia, Assistant Chief Executive Officer (ACEO) who investigates complaints from schools. Petaia said that the Ministry looks at the severity of a case and they have already dealt with the matters pertaining to some schools.

One of the cases involved the transfer of a teacher from Safata Primary to another school by a District School Inspector without the knowledge of the Ministry.

There was also the issue of a student at Samoa College who had been giving the teachers a hard time and claimed the influence of the student’s parent who is a senior public servant.

"We lapsed in both cases," says Maugatai Tiotio, another Ministry ACEO.

Tiotio is in support of the CEO’s new reform but still insists that while some of the policies are outdated, "policies are needed to guide the teachers."

She acknowledged the issue of the Samoa College student which she followed up after an order by the former CEO of the Ministry of Education. "The Ministry should treat all complaints equally and that any issue should be dealt with promptly."

Tiotio was referring to the Ministry’s prompt response to the Samoa College issue where she was personally involved with. She agrees with the CEO that whether minor or big, the Ministry should be neutral it its performance.

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