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House Ed Committee urged to look into school bus problem

Education director Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga [SN file photo]

Education director Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga said a school bus assigned to transport students to Manulele Tausala Elementary School on Tuesday broke down en route to the school, but a bus was available and did pick up students after school.

Matagi-Tofiga’s response to Samoa News questions, comes after Ituau Rep. Manuma Wayne Wilson raised the issue during a House session on Tuesday, where he informed his colleagues that students were late to school that morning - the first day of classroom instruction for the new school year - because there was no school bus for them.

Manuma claimed that he had contacted the head of DOE’s bus division (known as the Transportation Division) that morning and was told that the bus assigned to Manulele Tausala went out for auto repairs in May and there are still problems with the bus, and therefore it was not yet out of the auto shop.

Manuma called on the House Education Committee to look into the matter so that it doesn’t happen again, at a time when public schools are back in session. (See Samoan story in the Lali section of the Aug. 6th Samoa News).

When contacted for comments Tuesday afternoon, Matagi-Tofiga told Samoa News she was informed that morning that the bus, which was supposed to pick up Manulele Tausala students “broke down, but  [transportation division] were able to pick up the students after school”.

Matagi-Tofiga provided to Samoa News a response Wednesday afternoon following a meeting earlier in the day with the bus drivers, and that is, the bus broke down on the way to pick up the students, but a bus did pick them up after school.

She added that the Transportation Division will look for drivers that have already dropped their students off for assistance in accommodating other routes, to ensure that all students arrive at their respective campuses before school time.

When asked about the total number of buses operating in the DOE fleet, Matagi-Tofiga said, fourteen and this includes a bus that was transferred to Tutuila from Manu'a, where DOE is now utilizing vans to transport students.

“And we have 4 new buses arriving in October,” she revealed.

Over the years, the new buses for the DOE fleet - which also provide transportation for private schools - have been purchased with federal funds, such as Capital Improvement Project money, which is overseen by the US Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs.

For FY 2018, for CIP, a total of $600,000 is allocated for new school buses, according to the OIA budget document.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale has called on the House Education Committee to look into the concerns raised by Manuma, saying that the problem at Manulele Tausala is probably occurring at other schools and he suggested a committee hearing with DOE officials to get direct answers.