DOE partners with senior citizens, re-establishes Territorial PTA to confront problems
The American Samoa Department of Education is getting much needed support from a senior citizens mentoring program and the newly re-established Territorial PTA Council, an advisory body to DOE in areas such as education and extra curriculum.
These were two new developments discussed during a meeting early this month called by DOE director Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau with the officers of parent/ teachers associations from all public schools, according to minutes of the meeting the DOE director provided early this week. Vaitinasa also made the official announcement of DOE's two newest partners more than a week ago on KVZK-TV.
TAMM MENTORING PROGRAM
Vaitinasa met during the first week of the month with some 60 members of the Toe Afua Mai Matua (TAMM), a non-profit organization made up mostly of Samoan senior citizens.
Vaitinasa announced on KVZK-TV that she had asked for a partnership with TAMM to help DOE with the high school students.
“I believe TAMM’s effective way of counseling, using cultural methods and techniques that they have as grandparents or parents in the school; we know they will be able to touch the hearts of young people to remind them of values that they should remember, in terms of following the rules in school, and doing their best while in school,” she said.
“So I’m very excited about this new partnership and they will become very visible in schools,” she added, noting that the TAMM mentoring program will help “our students, who need counseling and help with regards to their relationship with the school, [other] students, sports and any other activities in school.”
Territorial Administration on Aging director Tifimalae Ale told Samoa News that TAMM will provide valuable service under the new partnership with DOE, which has recently encountered violence such as the stoning late last month of a school bus following a sports event, where three students were injured in the incident.
Ale says the senior citizens, who have the wisdom of parents, grandparents and elders of the community, will be selected to work in each school under the mentoring program.
TAMM member Ifopo Seva’aetasi told Samoa News late last week that the reason there is problems between students is the lack of parental teaching and supervision at home. He says if a student is well behaved at home, that will also be well behaved when that student is at school or out in public.
And since the TAMM partnership with DOE began, Seva’aetasi says he has seen changes among some of the students in schools. He said one of the focuses of the TAMM program is to counsel students to focus on their education and to avoid wasting time.
It's now going into the second week of this program, which is overseen by the DOE’s Office of Guidance and Counseling.
At the PTA officers meeting, Vaitinasa said it was unanimously approved to re-start the Territorial PTA Council, which acts as an advisory board to the DOE with regard to all aspects of education and extra curricular activities.
“I’m excited about it because they bring a wealth of understanding and also provide us the perspective of the parents,” she said on KVZK-TV, adding that parents play a vital role in the education of children and are therefore an important partner in their department.
According to minutes of the PTA officers’ meeting, the council will assist the director in dealing with matters pertaining to —and not limited to—strengthening students, strengthening families, strengthening schools and school communities.
It also says that the Council is part of the Improvement Plan for DOE and the council “would be a positive approach to increase parental involvement in our schools and for possible grant funding for parental activities.”
At the start of the meeting, Vaitinasa noted that the PTA officers meeting is an ongoing effort to reach out to parents to promote and increase parental involvement in schools. “The parents are urged to take part in their children's education,” she said and reminded PTA officers of the importance of involving parents in the education of students because the education of a child begins at home.
Vaitinasa also discussed DOE school bus transportation to and from schools and for extracurricular activities, including sports. At the meeting, she reminded those present that the buses serve both public and private schools, high schools and elementary schools, and it’s an important service throughout the island— and any damage to a bus is not only costly to the government, but will also hinder the service to the schools.
One of the reasons the PTA officers meeting was called by Vaitinasa was to discuss the Governor’s Education Summit set for next week, Oct. 22 - 24. The summit will highlight “Parental Involvement” as one of the topics for discussion. According to the Director, the use of the Summit will be a reference to academic standards and achievements.
Earlier this month, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga sent out an invitation letter to members of the community to participate in the summit, which he says is to bring together all stakeholders in order to dialogue and exchange ideas on critical issues faced by the local education system.
He says the hope is that “through our collaboration, we are able to reach common grounds” in addressing the challenges currently confronting DOE.
The summit will include leaders of all three branches of government, members of the business community, church and traditional leaders, private organizations, sports associations and all who have important stake in educating American Samoa’s young people, he said.
“It is my firm belief as the Governor that through our concerted efforts as leaders of our territory, we are able to build a solid educational foundation for our most important investment - our children,” Lolo said.
DOE and the Governor’s Office are expected to release soon more details of the summit.
Samoa News reporter Fili Sagapolutele contributed to this report.
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