Senate concerned over school delay, calls DOE in for status report
Some senators were not happy to learn the new school year for public schools on Tutuila and Aunu’u has been delayed for another week, prompting a Senate committee hearing tomorrow (Wednesday) with the Education Department director and other officials being asked to provide answers.
The start of the new school year was delayed from last week to this week to allow the government time to complete repairs and clean up all public schools after a report by the Department of Health found 10 out of 30 public schools faced unsanitary and unsafe conditions.
However, reports received by Samoa News last week revealed that many more schools had problems that needed to be addressed and government departments participating in the adopt-a-school initiatives have been working hard on school campuses to clean and paint their adopted schools.
The DOE issued a public notice to the local media after 4p.m Sunday that public schools on Tutuila and Aunu’u would be closed for another week, while the public schools in Manu’a were scheduled to open yesterday.
DOE director Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau went on KVZK-TV late Sunday afternoon to make the official announcement. She explained the decision was made following site visits of all schools on Tutuila.
She said the three areas that were the focus of DoH inspection to ensure safety of all students in the classroom are: cleanliness of the cafeteria and all areas where food is prepared for students; the safety of drinking water for students; and bathrooms.
The DOE director stated site visits of schools found major problems that need to be addressed, adding there are schools close to streams, which flow onto school campuses, affecting buildings and classrooms.
The second week of delay for Tutuila and Aunu’u gives ample time for contractors and members of the cabinet whose departments have adopted schools to complete their projects and to ensure that safety and health issues are taken care of at the various schools, according to the director.
Regarding Manu'a, the DOE director says schools were inspected by DoH and “have passed with flying colors” and therefore, they opened yesterday.
Vaitinasa also announced an emergency meeting called for 2p.m. today at the Governor H. Rex Lee Auditorium where Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga and Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga will address a gathering of school PTA officers, principals, assistant directors and other DOE officials.
She says DoH will also present at the meeting its inspection report of all schools in the territory.
During yesterday’s Senate session, Sen. Faumuina Tagisiaali’i, chairman of the Senate Education/Scholarship Committee said he was very saddened to hear there is yet another delay in the start of the new school year and the Senate should get more information on what is going on with schools in the territory.
He then scheduled a hearing for 8a.m. tomorrow, saying that DOE director and officials should provide for the Senate details of the status of all schools and the problems they face. He says some $1 million was allocated in the FY 2013 supplemental to fix some of the schools but it appears there are still unresolved problems.
Sen. Galeai M. Tu’ufuli said problems with schools are not new, as these issues have occurred over the years but nothing was done to correct them. He says these problems should have been resolved a long time ago, but they continue to this day. Other senators also raised concerns over another delay in opening the new school year.
Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie agreed with the concerns raised about the schools, adding that issues pertaining to schools should have been addressed during the months when school was out. He says it's best to get DOE officials into the Senate to talk about schools before the Fono gets into the review of the FY 2014 budget.
Samoa News should point out that in the last supplementary budget passed by the Fono, in March of this year, the Senate re-allocated $100,000 in supplemental appropriations earmarked for the DOE to cover repair expenses for the MV Sili. This amendment was passed by both the Senate and the House in early April 2013.
In March, during the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee hearing, ASG Treasurer Dr. Falema’o ‘Phil’ M. Pili told the Senate the $300,000 allocated to the Department of Education was for school building maintenance and purchase of school supplies.
He also pointed out funding for DOE maintenance in FY 2013 was cut during the budget review last year and therefore funds are needed to carry out maintenance for school buildings.
The re-allocation of the $100,000 was discussed after the hearing, as possibly going for the MV Sili repairs, as well as for tools and equipment for the Village Beautification project, after certain senators asked.
However, taking the money from the DOE supplemental budget was first suggested by Sen. Magalei Logovi’i, the former ASG Treasurer, who told senators that $1 million is allocated in the FY 2013 budget for DOE maintenance and suggested cutting $100,000 from the supplemental that was earmarked for DOE maintenance and purchase of school supplies for the MV Sili.
After further discussion on the same day, this was agreed to by the senators and the supplemental bill was then amended to re-allocate the $100,000 to MV Sili repairs instead of to the DOE.
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