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DOE Director's decision to cancel extra curricular events prompts backlash, criticism

To meet required instruction days which were reduced due to the pink eye outbreak, Education Department director Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau has canceled all extra curricular school events for the rest of the current school year and the move has prompted criticism posted on social media for all the world to see.


All public schools on Tutuila were closed for the rest of last week due to the pink eye epidemic and Vaitinasa sent out a memo late last week to DOE staff thanking them for their efforts to reduce the further spread of pink eye.


She noted that by canceling school, DOE was able to keep infected staff and students  home and minimize the outbreak as much as possible. She also said that schools will re-open today.


In order to keep from changing the school year calendar, and to meet required instructional days, Vaitinasa said all Samoan Day events for schools, and the annual Speech Festival will be cancelled this year.


However, History Day — which was to be held last week and spearheaded by the Amerika Samoa Humanities Council — will continue at a later scheduled date. (Samoa News understands that it has been rescheduled for later this month.)


Then last Friday, Vaitinasa said she was informed via social media, that an employee of the department “has started a social uprising against the DOE's administrative decision” to cancel Samoan Day, Teacher Appreciation Day, the Speech Festival and any extra curricular activity consuming instructional time for the remainder of the school year.


The DOE director said it is disappointing that this employee feels justified in starting this social uprising through teachers, parents and community members, whose students were to perform in the Speech Festival, without inquiring about the reasons for the cancellation.


She pointed to the Samoan proverb "E le tupu fua se mea" (or nothing happens without reason), as “appropriate food for thought”.


However, this employee's action in socially objecting to the DOE's decision is clearly “a direct insubordination to this administrative decision” which the director said was made after reviewing the issues and data and was in the interest of the students.


According to the director, canceling all extra curricular activities for the rest of the school year, which would use up the calendared days planned for school, was primarily due to the pink eye outbreak within the last two weeks.


“The pink eye outbreak has and is still affecting close to 3000 students and close to 300 teachers and school personnel,” she said. “That meant, suspension of school due to the pink eye week —  April 7 to April 11 — lessened the instructional days required for a complete and sound school year.”


She stressed that instructional time takes precedence over extracurricular activities. “In other words, students cannot graduate without completing credits from instructional time, and that extracurricular activities were designed only to extend students' experiences. Extracurricular activities are voluntary, not required,” she explained.


“Yes, we apologize for the inconvenience this cancelation on students and parents alike, but we feel as educators, that the time spent on learning and disciplining the mind is not lost because of this cancellation,” she noted. “Rather, the work, effort and learning which occurred in preparation for the speech festival exist in the minds of the students now and for years to come.”


“There will be more speech festivals, Samoan days, teacher appreciation days in the years to come,” she said.


Samoa News received word over the weekend that two other DOE staffers have joined the first DOE person in criticizing Vaitinasa’s decision to cancel all extra curricular school events for the rest of the school year.