SUSPENSION OF ELEMENTRY EDUCATION IN GOILALA WAS NOT MY DECISSION – Fr BRIAN CAHILL


We are well aware within our agency about the ideals of the Universal Basic Education Plan (2009-2019).   Each district is meant to implement the plan taking into consideration the social context and situation of the district, in order to achieve the desired outcomes. As the Agency which is largely responsible for the delivery of education services in the Goiala this is the approach we have taken. It’s the only sensible approach.

There is a very different context and situation in Goilala, which is a remote, isolated, and rural district compare with say a largely urban district like the NCD. You cannot take a pre-conceived model for education (thought out in Australian Aid or European Union funded seminars at the Gateway or Travel Lodge, or the like as has happened over the years)   and impose that model as though it will simply fit for every situation across the country.

We have seen this with the replacement of the now officially recognised as failed OBE system of education with a Standards Based System of Education.

When that system was first introduced, we had a succession of Standards Officers coming to the high school telling us that we had to bottom out G7 and G8 and top up our primary schools. This was impossible given the situation of primary schools in Goilala – they simple did not have the capacity.

Over the years, the BOG and Agency resisted any move in this direction for Sacred Heart under pressure from the outside as such a move would adversely affect an already fragile education system in the district and work against the best interests of Goilala children.

Now under the new Standards Based system that has replaced OBE since last year, G7 & 8 has been brought back into the high school. Why? Because it is generally recognised now that primary schools in general do not have the capacity to teach G7 & G8 properly as witnessed by falling standards.  Since 1997 Sacred Heart had been accused of lagging behind with the implementing policy, however now with a change of system to the 2-6-6 structure we are so far ahead of other schools! We are now able to move forward with the topping up of the high school with G11-12 while retaining our G7 & G8.

Then there was the introduction of the Elementary Reform as it existed under the OBE System of Education as it was introduced in Goilala. From the time of its introduction it was clear to all stakeholders that something was terribly wrong with the way it was going in the district. This was thoroughly evaluated by an audit team set up by the PEB in 2011 consisting of the following persons: Goilala SO (chair), DES, CES, and myself. The audit ran for eight months during which every teacher and trainee was checked for their qualifications, and performance to determine whether or not they should continue in the program. All three trainers were evaluated on their performance and practice, as was the practice of previous district trainers.

What the audit uncovered was large scale fraud and corruption. Fraudulent qualifications, high levels of absenteeism, misappropriation/theft of school monies, and the ‘ghosting’/non-operation of schools. All of which had been obvious to people on the ground for years.   However the audit now provided the empirical data and factual information for responsible authority to act.

The audit report which was forwarded to the PEB in 2012 and its recommendations were accepted in full. These recommendations were for:

  • the suspension of the elementary sector as it was presently operating in Goilala,
  • the termination of teaching officers/trainees who were clearly not suited for teaching and/or have fraudulent qualifications.
  • the non-engagement of teachers/trainees unless they have proper qualifications: Good passes in Grade 10 with preferably G 12, and clear recommendations from the Agency/community of the person’s suitability for a teaching appointment.
  • the investigation of the practice of the present trainers, with a view to charging them for the mess they were largely responsible for having created.
  • the intake of G1 & G2 into Goilala primary schools

Patrick, the myth that you, and apparently now the DES from what you say in the face of the findings of the audit he helped conduct, is that Fr Brian is holding back the rights of children to education in holding to the suspension of the Elementary Sector in Goilala.   On the face of it that might seem so to people who are not privy to the facts as stated above.

The elementary system as it was operating in Goilala was an outright wrought of the system. You had people who were taking advantage of the situation of people who were already disadvantaged by holding out to them the false hope of education for their children for their own personal gain.   As elementary operated, the children of Goilala are better off without it. And it is obvious to those of us on the ground sincerely committed to district education and the development of Goilala schools, that elementary will never work in Goilala given the situation of the district.

Since the time of the audit, the ditching of OBE with Standards Based Education has seen a marked shift in ‘official’ education policy about elementary. Across the board, G1 & G2 have been brought back to primary school – again the wisdom and the foresight of the agency has been proved right here – with an emphasis on getting back to teaching basics: phonics, English, maths. One of the obvious failings of OBE was the ‘dumbing’ down of standards across the country since its introduction, and this was clearly evident when it operated in Goilala.

Patrick, I am dumbfounded that you, together with DES as you say, are trying to re-activate the mess of elementary as it existed previously. I am dumbfounded that you have arranged for your Gerry Tamatai to be re-engaged as ‘elementary trainer’ for Goilala through your connection in the national department given the fact that he is one of the trainers named in the audit report for further investigation (which happened). Though I understand he is your ‘tambu’. I am dumbfounded that since last year a good number of the teachers/trainees identified in the report as unsuited for teaching or without proper qualifications have been put back on pay. I am dumbfounded given that elementary schools apparently reactivated are not operating and the teachers and the trainer put back on have been collecting pay much of last year for nothing.

However, all of this does not worry us now as an agency – though I suggest what is happening is of real concern to government and the LLGs – as we have cut off from any further engagement with this sector in Goilala now that G1 & G2 is back in primary school according to the new 2-6-6 structure.

The Chair of the Diocese of Bereina Catholic Education Board (DEB) who happens to be Fr Brian did write to the Provincial Administrator last year complaining about the interference of the SSO, Patrick Dimsock with the procedures and processes of the PEB as it met over the 2012/2013 period. So did the Head of our Agency, the Most Rev Rochus J Tatamai, Bishop of Bereina. Patrick, you seem to think that I am acting as a single person here, without the courtesy of recognising that I speak and act in the name of the DEB and the Bishop as his vicar in such matters.

Our Agency, has Membership of the PEB. Our church representative at those contentious meetings (CES) reported back to us a number of irregularities in meeting procedures and processes for which you were responsible for orchestrating, and which our agency has the right to point out without fear or intimidation.   In doing so we highlighted the problem of the presence of non-PEB members at PEB Meetings, and other ways PEB Meetings are open to manipulation by officers of the Division/Standards in the way members are notified of meetings, forwarding of agenda prior to meetings, and the accurate keeping of meeting minutes.   Again, as an agency with membership of PEB we have a right to point these things out with fear or intimidation. This has nothing to do with the academic qualifications of the other PEB Members.

As for appointments, our agency appointment committee meetings for appointments to all our agency schools are inclusive of the Government reps on our Boards, who are nominated by the Education Adviser. This the DESs for both the Kairuku and Goiala Districts. Members are notified in advance, and appointment decisions are accurately documented.   From our agency appointment committees, decisions go to the full DEB for endorsement or changes. From there they are forwarded by our Agency to the PEB by our Church Secretary.   In our appointment meetings due consideration is given to suspended schools which need to be re-opened and the officers we have for appointment. I can assure you that this is not a decision alone of Fr Brian Cahill. My job as chair is to ensure that such meetings happen, and that procedures and processes are followed.

This so called Goilala Education Team that acted last year against the recommendations of the agency were Patrick Dimsock (SSO), Gerry Tamatai (elementary trainer) and Henry Ivolo (DES). The DES failed to attend any of the agency appointment committee meetings last year, or this year.

According to the Teaching Service Act (1987) it is the agency which has right of representation at PEB Appointment Meetings and to make recommendations for appointment to agency schools. Standard Officers, DESs and Elementary Trainers do not.  Our CES, Mr Henry Kita was not party to any changes to our Goilala appointments as wrongly alleged by Patrick Dimsock.

It is very well Patrick that you make out your concern for the suffering of children in the back areas, however you need to match this concern with proper action expected of a standards officer. As it stands it doesn’t match.

Moreover, you continual personal attack on me, and allusion to my failure and shortcomings as a priest as you see it, irrelevant as it is, is nothing but a screen for your own failure and shortcoming. Let’s keep to education and facts.

 

Fr Brian Cahill msc, EV
Vicar for Education
Chair – Diocese of Bereina Catholic Education Board.

 

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