If the first two weeks of 2015 are any indication of what’s ahead, this year is going to be a hectic and eventful time for the people of Samoa. This week’s editorial will touch on three different topics – the media saturated issue of the SSLC Mathematics result, the Citizenship Investment Bill and the Media Council Bill.
Teachers and students of Samoa have had a busy week of successes and failures. Whilst teachers were celebrating their 7% pay-increase (as part of a three-year roll out totaling 21%), approximately three quarters of students who sat the Secondary School Leaving Certificate were mourning their mathematics results. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what went wrong and the finger-pointing is well underway.
Of interest is the fact that for the first time in recent memory, these exam results were based on raw marks and were not scaled. If the 75% failure rate is any reflection of the “true” results of previous years, then scaling has masked any real insight in to what our future leaders are learning and retaining. A scary thought. Although a little scarier is the thought that there are thousands of former students, from previous years, currently among us with ‘scaled’ mathematics results.
It would be interesting to see how the other SSLC subjects were marked.
Mathematics is a great indicator of the cohesive and functioning relationship between the teacher and the student. Simplistically – you are taught how to work out a problem and you arrive at the established answer. In numeracy, you’re either right or you’re wrong. There is no in-between or interpretive dance around a possible scenario that may or may not apply depending on personal feeling or how the wind blows on any given day. It’s not English.
If this Mathematics result is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the educational prowess of our future leaders, then we should all start panicking now. If this is difficult to stomach, perhaps you should check your future leader’s social media pages and work it out for yourself.
Citizenship Investment Bill
As the topic of deliberate and calculated scaremongering by some newspapers, it’s disappointing to see that this Bill has been further cheapened as a political tool for next year’s elections. Certain Parliamentarians (and would-be election candidates?) are riding the wave of media-incited alarm by openly encouraging racist feeling towards foreigners, or more precisely and somewhat poignantly – Chinese people.
The great French General, Charles De Gaulle once said that “Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first and nationalism is when hate for people other than your own comes first.”
Disdain for other beliefs, other cultures, other people is what causes most of the suffering in the world. Blurring the line between concern for country as a patriot, and contempt for foreigners does not take much skill or effort. It’s easy to be ignorant. Fear of the unknown can keep you boxed within a prison of self-imposed limitations.
The claim that Samoa is being sold to foreigners is a shared paranoia of xenophobes.
Some critics come to the party with innocent intentions. Others are determined to exploit the debate for their own gain. Others still offer their opinions without contributing anything useful at all.
At the heart of the matter is the fear of Samoa being for sale. That some part of our identity as Samoans will be made available to anyone with a few million tala.
Citizenship is not what makes Samoa special. A passport does not separate you from the rest as a true Samoan. It is not measina.
What makes us special as Samoans can never be sold – it’s the spirit of Samoa, it’s the lands of our forefathers and the honour of matai. It’s the sense of respect we value in each other and ourselves. There is no bounty on that.
A passport is simply a bound booklet, handy for travel and useful as ID when collecting your gift from the local money transfer. That’s all.
Samoa needs investors. Whether by virtue of this Bill, or any other method, Samoa needs investors to bolster the economy and create jobs. Even if our graduates are failures at arithmetic, they still need work. The faalavelaves don’t wait. The church donations don’t halt. The bills don’t stop. Ever.
Media Council Bill
The special Parliamentary Committee tasked with examining the Bill has been holding consultations in recent weeks, working through the minutiae of differing opinions for and against media regulation.
As we await to hear from them, we should consider the difficult road that brought us here.
After years of industry-led consultations and numerous drafts of a working Bill, during which the proposed regulation was endlessly scrutinised by the media, the hard slog by Samoa’s journalists to see a positive step towards raising the standards of journalism, is almost over.
The media industry is full of highly opinionated, egotistical, stubborn, scheming, charming, dedicated, amazingly talented, passionate personalities. It’s basically Politics, without the official passport.
So you can imagine how difficult it is to come to a consensus on anything, let alone regulations that will determine how your industry is guided. It wasn’t easy.
As the Fourth Estate, the media is burdened with glorious purpose. To watch, to inform, to report, to forum, to advise, to entertain. These responsibilities are not to be taken lightly – not by the government, not by the media and most of all, not by the people of Samoa.
Should this Bill pass in to law the only change will be in the extra pause by reporters, before submitting an article. More so than before, they will have to reconsider whether their story is going to measure up to the standards of responsible and ethical reporting.
Proposed regulations in the Bill, as agreed upon by the majority of local media organisations and individuals , will ensure that professionalism in the industry and journalistic standards are raised to respectable levels. There is little doubt that anyone would object to that.