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Faipule voice opposition to DOE proposal regarding combined graduation

A majority of the faipule in the House of Representatives are against the move by DOE to combine graduations, pointing out the safety and security of the students is the most important issue that DOE should consider when making the final decision.


A hearing was called on the topic before the House DOE Committee chaired by Vaetasi Saena Moliga early last week. Other issues were also discussed with Vaitinasa concerning DOE matters, such as the transfer of DOE maintenance funds to the Department of Public Works, without Fono approval — it’s against the law.




According to DOE Director Vaitinasa Salu Hunkin-Finau, a question was posed to the governor’s office, asking if there’s a way to combine graduations into one day, due to time constraints for not only government leaders but also for parents, families and friends who will be attending graduations for a whole week.


She explained that in the past, graduations lasted three or four hours, however last year, a mandate was given to high schools to hold graduations within an hour and a half. There was disagreement about it, however following the graduations no one complained because the shorter graduation was something new and refreshing.


“We are following the policy, to establish a graduation that will save time for everyone and we are looking at meeting with parents and senior officers, prior to making the final decision.”


“As we stated, it’s merely a suggestion and it’s something we are still looking into, and if this proceeds, there will be one graduation for Manu’a and one graduation for Tutuila and it’ll be only two days, unlike in the past, where it’s a full week event,” said Vaitinasa.


During the hearing, Rep Atualevao Gafatasi Afalava told the Director that during ASG’s Labor Day celebration, the main road traffic was backed up in every direction and by the time they made it to the stadium the program was half way finished. 


He also said combining students will most likely be an unstable situation because no one can predict what’s on the student’s mind, and if a fight breaks out, no one will be able to stop the children. He also pointed out that even on the social site Facebook, there were some who agreed to this move, yet the majority were against it, noting the pride they have in their schools.


Tualauta Rep Florence Saulo noted she too was stuck in traffic during the Labor day celebration and it was sad for those Tualauta residents whose vehicles were stuck in the sun without AC, and it is just unacceptable.


Rep Larry Sanitoa echoed concerns rendered by other faipule, and pointed out graduation day is a special day for the students, who worked on a 12 -ear education, which will not go well with a combined one-day graduation. He said, “The security and safety of the kids is what we have to look at.”


Sanitoa also stated he means no disrespect “but this day is not meant for us but for them, this is a special day for them. I know as a government we’re trying to make life easier for us but at the end of the day it’s not for us, it’s for them.”


Rep Fatulegae’e Mauga also noted there are schools who have drafted petitions against this move to combine graduations.


The House chairman of the Education Committee requested the DOE Director to submit a report on the outcome of the meetings with parents and students on the matter. He told Vaitinasa the Fono does not dictate DOE decisions and urged the Director to be bold when making difficult decisions on changes because unless the change is made no one will know the outcome, positive or negative.


The Director noted a total of 912 students will be graduating this year, with Tafuna having the most students — 299. Leone will graduate 163, Voc-Tech 68, Samoana 233, and Fagaitua 132.  Manu’a has the fewest, with 17 students set to graduate.


 She did point out, “Changes will come no matter what and when it’s the most certain things in life, it’s the most hard to accept.


“We are not saying that we are not holding graduations. We will hold graduations, and we will give all the honor and respect to all the schools, but what we are proposing is that we change the format for graduations.”




Regarding the DOE maintenance which was transferred to the Department of Public Works, Rep Archie Taotasi Soliai informed the DOE Director that whenever there’s a transfer as such, by law it must come back to the Fono for reprogramming of funds.


He said the Administration cannot transfer money unless approved by the Fono.


The director responded when this occurred she assumed the AG’s office and Governor’s legal counsel had already reviewed the issue, prior to making the move.




Tualauta faipule Saulo asked the Director about the status of chairs and desks in the schools, given that some students are still sitting on the floor in classes, while others get to sit. She said it poses the question — whose child gets to sit on the floor and whose child gets a desk?


In response, Vaitinasa said she was amazed that furniture ordered for the schools — which should last over ten years — is broken in a couple of years. She said that when they order furniture, DOE has to wait for six months for the furniture to arrive, and by the time it arrives, more chairs are broken.


“I don't think we can furnish every school, every year for every child. It appears furniture is damaged faster than we can replace it,” the DOE director stated.


The House will call another hearing on the status of the meetings with parents, school officials and students regarding the proposed one day graduation, according to the House Education Committee.