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Paying for Samoan Education

It was announced with much fanfare last week that the New Zealand Government will be dedicating $5 million of its aid budget to funding three years of education for all secondary school students in Samoa.

Education is a vital tool in development. But is more aid really the best way to invest in Samoa’s future?

During John Key’s visit to Samoa, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi pressed for an extension of the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme into the construction sector. Samoa has been very happy with its participation in the RSE, and they, like many other Pacific states, have a work-ready pool that far exceeds the requirements of the New Zealand horticulture and viticulture industries. Mr. Tuilaepa wondered?

As research out of Waikato University and the World Bank has shown, a number of those who have taken part in the RSE have used the money they earned in New Zealand to pay for school fees for their secondary-school-aged children. They have also used their earnings on improving their homes, starting up small businesses, and funding community projects. The vast potential of the skills and experience the workers have picked up in New Zealand have yet to be tracked.

Expanding opportunities for Samoan workers under the RSE could, then, achieve the same ends as the promised extra $5 million in school fees: more secondary-school enrolments. The difference would be that an extended RSE would give Samoans the potential to fund their children’s education past the three year horizon of the aid gift, and its benefits would not end at the schoolhouse door.

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