Health inspectors close schools in American Samoa
Concerns in American Samoa after health inspectors shut down schools for the first week of the new year.
The American Samoa director of education, Vaitinasa Dr Salu Hunkin Finau, says public school facilities are in very bad shape due to years of neglect by the Department of Education.
Unsanitary and unsafe conditions have forced the closure of all public schools in American Samoa for a week.
School was due to start on Monday 12, but is now scheduled to start on August 19.
Leilani Momoisea reports:
Health inspections uncovered problems ranging from rodent-infected kitchens, with one school having decayed food on the floor, poor water supply, and improper ventilation. At a press announcement, the director of the department of education, Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin Finau says staff are spending the week to ensure school cafeterias, bathrooms and campuses are ready for the children.
VAITINASA DR SALU HUNKIN FINAU: Students should not be reporting to school, but all DOE staff are to report to their respective location of work and they should be engaged and assisting the 'adopt a school' programme which will continue until next week and whatever that can be done to help rectify the findings from the department of health.
And Vaitinasa was frank as to the cause of the problems at the schools.
VAITINASA DR SALU HUNKIN FINAU: We need to do our job, we need to be on top of this. We should not have to wait for the department of health to show us this kind of stuff. It's total negligence, total negligence. I cannot speak for the private schools, but for the public schools, to me it's been years of negligence, years of negligence.
Our correspondent in American Samoa, Monica Miller, says the state of schools this year is not so different from previous years.
MONICA MILLER: It's more a case of same things happening, except that this time, the department of health inspectors have decided that this is not on, we should do something to improve the school buildings, because otherwise the health of the students will be compromised. Particularly in the bathrooms, some of the running water were not working. The other problem was with the school cafeterias, in some cases there were streams nearby and the streams were washing in mud and debris.
A parent with two sons in High School, Caroline Stowers-Pavihi, says she was surprised to see that school renovations were still going on last week.
CAROLINE STOWERS-PAVIHI: I did ask the question to myself when I came around the field for my kids football practice, and I'd seen them cleaning and start painting, and I'm like, 'Whoa, it's a bit too late, they should have done this through the summer'. Because our summer is almost three months.
She says ultimately though, she is very pleased the year has been delayed, rather than have her children go to school in an unsafe environment.
CAROLINE STOWERS-PAVIHI: When we hear about this, this is a big concern to us parents, but we're so happy, it's good that they're delaying the school for one week, and taking care of all of this because we're concerned of all our children's health. I know some parents don't like it because they want their kids to start school on time, but it's just only one week and we're talking about our kids environments where they're gonna hang out in school, we're talking about their health.
The director of the department of education, Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin Finau, says she hopes that by the time the department of health revisits the schools, they will not have any citations. The schools have been given three months to comply with health standards or else they will be closed for good.
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