Let’s think about the basics. Think teachers and doctors.

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

We will not stop calling this out. If this government is serious about improving education and health, it should put its money where its mouth is.

How? When it comes to education, pay teachers what they are worth. 

The same thing should be done for the health sector. If the government is serious about everyone having access to quality health care, invest more money into the people who are most important. 

They include doctors, nurses and health specialists who are so often overworked and underpaid.

The truth is undeniable. When it comes to education, flash buildings don’t produce bright students.

But good quality teachers do. Which is where we’ve got a problem. The majority of teachers in this country are paid peanuts. 

Which is why some of them are more interested in finding fruit picking jobs in New Zealand or Australia where they know they will get better money for their time and effort.

And while they are leaving the system, our education system continues to struggle. You don’t have to look far to find out why.

Over the years, we’ve always known that at the National University of Samoa, so many of our brightest minds don’t want to be teachers. But you can’t blame them for looking elsewhere.

Who wants to be a teacher when the salaries are so bad? Who cares about making a difference if your pay can’t feed your multiple children? 

Indeed, there is a big problem when you’ve got teachers applying to pick strawberries in New Zealand.

The same goes for the health sector. 

The problem of chronic shortage of doctors and sometimes nurses is not new in Samoa. We’ve been struggling with this for years. The establishment of the Oceania University of Medicine has helped a little bit but the number of graduates – especially the ones staying in Samoa - it has failed to keep up with the growing demand. 

It is not a secret that we have a very, very sick population today. There are hundreds of people queuing up at the hospital everyday frustrated because there are not enough doctors. And the doctors who are there are quite often overworked; you wonder how they can continue to cope, especially since they are dealing with lives. 

Some of our most talented doctors have opted for greener pastures elsewhere.

What is being done about this? How is the government attracting better doctors and more doctors to Samoa?

At the end of the day, this is a government that is forever talking about health and education as a priority. 

Yet from what we are seeing today, that is a load of rubbish. We repeat, if teachers and health workers are important, pay them well and offer them incentives to stay and become better teachers.

Some people will ask ‘but where can the government get the money?’

Well on the front page of yesterday’s Samoa Observer was a story titled “Govt. salaries to cost $9.22million.” The story details how much the administration of the government will cost. Folks, that is a lot of money. Keep in mind that we are just talking about the Civil List and we haven’t included the cars, travels and all the other perks which would at least double – if not triple – the cost.

We accept that these are high paid positions. Fair enough.

But maybe, just maybe someone should again remind this government about their so-called priorities. They are supposed to be Health and Education.

If we want bright students, attract brighter teachers. Pay them what they’re worth and make a real effort to keep them. Better quality teachers produce brighter students and many of them will end being doctors which should help our health challenges greatly.

This is nothing new. But it pays to be reminded now and then.

What do you think?

Have a great Thursday Samoa, God bless!

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