Sunday, August 17, 2008

Mechitiw Village Got it Right

Mechitiw Elementary School has it right. Drive past the school and you will see a clean, graffiti-free shining white school with a new fence, water tank and toilets. How, you may ask, is this possible?

The answer is community pride, cooperation and a vision for the children of Mechitiw Village. Mechitiw landowners made a decision to provide land for their elementary school. This resulted in funds being available to remodel and renovate.

Drive by and take a look. Very impressive!

The Camel in Biblical Times & the CHS Student Today

Long ago in Biblical times the cities were protected with strong walls. There was a main gate to a city, guarded during the day and locked at night to protect inhabitants from attack.

Reaching the city at night, a traveler and his camel could only enter the city through a very small entryway, so small that it required one to bend down and move slowly, so narrow that only one person at a time could fit. A camel, being much larger than a man, had a truly difficult time negotiating this small entry. Because the entrance was so small people referred to it as the “eye of the needle.”

This small entry gave birth to the Biblical saying, “It is harder for a rich man to get into heaven than for a camel to get through the eye of a needle.”

One might compare the plight of the camel to the predicament of a Chuuk High School (CHS) student wishing to get a copy of her/his transcript. Because if you had a choice between being the camel struggling in the dark to squeeze your large frame into the “eye of the needle,” you might find it easier than trying to get a copy your CHS transcript.

It is the legal right of a student to get a transcript; the transcript belongs to the student and is held in trust by the school. The school may not deny the student a transcript – as recently happened at CHS. The school may charge a student a reasonable fee to obtain a copy of the transcript and a copy must be provided to the student in a reasonable amount of time.

Well, hold on folks, the CSSS and CHS play by different rules. According to their rules the person who holds the keys to the transcripts can deny you a copy of your transcript, or make you beg and return numerous times, genuflect, and/or pay homage before getting it. And no one at the CSSS or CHS will ever ask, “Where does the money collected for the transcripts go?"

This has been going on for a long time with no end in sight. The CSSS and CHS administrations are aware of the continuing sage of the student trying to negotiate the “eye of the needle” – AKA "Transcript Hell” - and have done nothing about it.

The heavily bible-touting CSSS administrators should prevent cruelty to students; make certain the student suffers less than the camel trying to enter the city at night, or be prepared for Biblical comparisons such as:

“It is harder for a CHS student to get a transcript than for a camel to get through the eye of a needle.”

Appropriate Public Education

Last year Special Education and Chuuk State were warned that they are in violation of IDEA, FAPE and other laws and standards required by schools and organizations receiving special education funding. The U.S. government advised FSM Special Education that unless it took steps to rectify the lack of compliance, that special education funds would be withdrawn.

This demand by those involved in special education is the tail wagging the dog, because many schools in Chuuk State fail to meet the most basic standards for children: they lack sanitary facilities and supplies (appropriate textbooks, desks, et al) necessary to provide a basic education.

A good example of this problem is Chuuk High School (CHS). During the 2007-2008 school year the Chuuk State School System (CSSS) was notified, in writing and verbally, that the sanitary conditions and lack of potable water at Chuuk High School (CHS) seriously endangered the health and well being of the students and was a factor in poor academic performance.

Now, during the week of August 11 -August 15, 2008, CHS is registering students for the 2008-2009 academic year. The question must be asked, “Since the end of school in May, was anything done to resolve the lack of toilets and drinking water at the school?”

To make matters more serious, it has been discovered that there are many other schools without toilets and drinking water.

Mwan Elementary School is one example of sanitation problems. For months raw sewage has been flowing at the entrance to the school grounds. Students often waded through this polluted unsanitary foul water. Have their been any illnesses in the village as a result?

The Office of Insular Affairs (Honolulu), the FSM Department of Education, the Chuuk State School System (CSSS), FSM Special Education knows, and there are parents and community leaders that know. What will they do?

Will they assure decent, Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) services, or will they ignore these serious omissions? Will the departments responsible for providing appropriate facilities continue to ignore these serious problems? Will FSM Special Education (FSM SPED) allow their students to attend classes at schools without the most basic sanitary facilities, which appears to clearly be a violation of all special education legislation? Should they not demand positive steps be taken to improve conditions both for SPED participants and all students?

Will parents and community leaders, FSM and Chuuk education departments, the United States’ OIA continue to look the other way while schools fail to provide the most basic facilities for Chuuk’s children? It has been happening for a very long time. When will it end? When will Chuukese children have free appropriate public education?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What will this school year bring?

Summer is almost over, so what lies in store for the numerous high schools students of Chuuk State?

The COM Entrance Test (COMET) results are out.
Five of the six lowest FSM high schools are from Chuuk. The three lowest high schools scored ar "random" (less than 300 on the test). That means if you took a six year old and had him randomly fill in a circle for each question on the COMET test, that six year old's score would be about the same as the graduating seniors of Faichuuk High School (FHS), Southern Namoneas High School (SNHS) and Southern Namoneas High School Fefan (SNHSF).

Chuuk High School (CHS) and Weno High School (WHS) are the other low scoring schools in Chuuk. The average score for these two schools was around 400.

So, as parents you have only a few choices:
1) Stand idly by and do nothing while your child wastes 12 years of his or her life in Chuuk's public education system. It could soon become 13 years of wasted time should the Early Chldhood Education (ECE) program become part of the public school system.

2) Stand up for what is right. Speak out and become proactiive for your child.

The recent letter to President Mori from 10 United States Congressmen, three from Hawaii and one from Guam, should be a wake-up call. Not only does it speak of misuse of money, but it talks of modifying emigration to the US because of the failure of the FSM to take positive steps to see that its people are educated and have decent health care.

The new Secretary of FSM Education has told the Chuuk State School System (CSSS) that a school cannot open if it doesn't have potable water and toilets. Will this actually be enforced? Stay tuned!

Although no one wishes this, it is possible that this year could be worse than the last. Lets hope not! But unless steps are taken - serious steps to improve instruction and force high schools to focus on students - it could get worse.

SHIP/HOOPS works with Chuukese youth and it is concerned that the education system continues to fail! This is NOT acceptable and cannot be allowed to go on indefinately.