Catholic school hours remain timed for buses

Faleata College students might find no room on buses.

Faleata College students might find no room on buses.

by Alan Ah Mu

APIA: THURSDAY 25 JULY 2013: The Catholic Church won’t change their school hours because they’re linked to bus timetables.

“The bus situation is very critical to many schools,” director of Catholic Education, Ae’au Chris Hazelman said.

A possibility arose mission schools like the Catholic’s might follow Government schools and change class hours.

Advised by Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture, Cabinet directed Government schools to lengthen their hours to allow for more teaching time.

For primary schools Year 1 to Year 3 classes are required to finish half an hour later at 2pm; Year 4 to Year 8 finish an hour later at 3pm – while high schools and colleges finish an hour and a half later at 4pm.

Because bus timetables haven’t changed so they won’t either, Ae’au said.

He gave as an example their primary school at coastal Leauva’a which is served by a bus that departs at 2pm for inland Ualesi, home of many of the pupils.

Miss that bus because of a later finishing time would leave kids stranded.

“But you have to secure the safety of the kids,” said Ae’au.

At the other side of Upolu Island, St. Peter’s primary at Falefa finish at 2pm since buses that serve that area and further east of it arrive shortly after that hour.

“What we’ve done is we’ve left it to the discretion of the principals,” said Ae’au of school hours.

Principals know best the situation of their own environment, he said, especially when daylight saving is on.

Head office only insists principals communicate with and arrange school hours with parents.

Their principals also consult with bus owners, Ae’au added.

Because the start time for Government schools remains the same mornings won’t be a problem for school kids Aleisa bus drivers Paki Laurenson and Peko Mathis say.

But return trips for them will be.

Afternoon return trips start at Fugalei Market at 1pm, 2.30pm, 3.30pm, 5pm, the last bus departing at 5.30pm.

Because the last two buses are often loaded to capacity with workers the drivers can’t see how later finishing school kids can fit on board.

The last two departures are timed for returning workers.

Both drivers co-operate in setting their current timetables to suit their passengers so that one arrives in town while the other departs shortly after.

They don’t see profit in arranging an extra trip solely for later finishing school kids and foresee Faleata College students who are to finish at 4pm being left behind by the 5pm and 5.30pm buses.

By the time they arrive at the Lotopa pick up point for those 40 or so Faleata students the buses would be filled with students from other colleges and workers who board in town at Fugalei.

Chief executive officer of Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture, Matafeo Tanielu Aiafi, said the new school hours create an opportunity for the private sector to exploit in transport.

It also strengthens Government policy for kids to attend schools in their own districts, Matafeo said.

But for students who live in settlements before, in and beyond Aleisa, Faleata is the closest Government college to them.

Students from Avele and Leififi, other Government colleges, also come from that general area and rely on the Aleisa buses for transport home.

Further Faleata is in dire need of more classrooms despite five new ones opened in February.

Even with the extra space each classroom holds 50 students “not a healthy environment for teaching,” principal Tifaga Moemoe said then.

Treasurer of the school committee, Leta’a Dan Devoe said student numbers should be limited to 20 per classroom.

But in 2009 less than 400 students enrolled, this year 796 have, Leta’a said.