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“Literacy is a fundamental human right,” P.M. tells the country

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Students from various schools settle in front of Government building after marching from the Fire Station.Samoa’s annual Literacy Week commenced yesterday, promoting the interdependent relationship of reading and opportunity through the 2015 theme: read to succeed.

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The opening of the annual affair saw schools marching with banners towards the Government building from the Fire Station, with several assorted activities, reading competitions and performances taking place.

Created in 2014, the weeklong event was formed through the partnership of the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (M.E.S.C) and Samoa Stationery and Books (S.S.A.B) to foster greater improvements for literacy in both Samoan and English.

Leota Valma Galuvao, Assistant Chief Executive Officer and Head of the Curriculum, Materials and Assessment Division at M.E.S.C, said the national event had already spurred positive approaches for students and families towards reading and comprehension despite only being in its second year.

“In terms of results, I’m positive we will be able to see significant improvements over the next 3-4 years,” she said.

“But what we’re noticing this year is a large change in terms of attitudes of the children. We’ve seen a lot more exciting responses from the schools out in all the zones and we’ve had a lot more parents come in and participate with teachers and students.”

Mataaevave College studentsIn addressing students yesterday, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi echoed the importance for students and families to be united in their commitment to improving literacy and comprehension.

“Today, I urge each and everyone – parents, teachers, members of parliament, leaders, ministers and business owners, including those who are at home- please read to your children,” he said.

 Palauli College students.“As the theme of the national literacy week reminds us, reading paves the way to success… [and] opens the doors to opportunities for our children.”

Savaia Primary SchoolReiterating the relationship between achievement and reading, Tiatai Salefao, a teacher at Lepa Lotofaga College, was both proud and hopeful for her students who will be participating in the Zone 1 impromptu speech and writing competition for 13 and 14 year olds.

“Reading is of the upmost importance to them,” she said.

“Strength in the mind is much more important than strength of the body. Unlike the body, the strength of the mind can lead you to greater success.” Asked if Samoa’s national literacy rate was better than some of our Pacific neighbors, Ms. Galuvao expressed that despite being ahead of most nations, she would like to see Samoan students sitting below the ten per cent ‘at risk’ margin of reading and numeracy.

Sasa'ai Primary School students.“In year four and year six, we run diagnostic tests to see where students are at. Last year, there were more than 20 per cent of students who sat year four that were categorized as ‘at risk’,” she said.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa with Minister of Health, Tuitama Dr. Talalelei Tuitama and Pastor Dr. Faafetai Fata.“And in year six, more than 30 per cent of the total population of students who sat year six were at risk also. When I say ‘at risk’, I am talking about students who sat the reading test but did not pass.”

In a bid to improve these statistics, Ms. Galuvao believes that students must be given literature that is more contextualized.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa with M.E.S.C Assistant Chief Executive Offi cer, Leota Valma Galuvao.“This is where the need is. We need to flood our schools with books and with stories that are familiar to them- that are from their environment and from their surroundings,” she said.

Australian High Commissioner in Samoa, Sue Langford, and Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Manualesagalala Enokati Posala.“We have been blessed with a lot of books from New Zealand, but this presents a challenge for us. We need stories in our own language [in order to] bring out that love in [the students] for reading.”

Salalailua Primary School.The literacy week events continue today, with wall collages and banners being displayed and judged at the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture at 9am.

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