The Ministry of Education, Sports, and Culture (MESC), in partnership with the India-UN Development Fund and UNESCO, officially launched MESC’s Innovative Lifelong Learning Lab (MILLL), the Soifua A’oa’oina, on 30 June 2022 at the MESC Headquarters.
The launching of the lab was led by the senior staff of the MESC, including Ms.’ Tuaopepe Perenise Tinei’ (Acting CEO), Mamea Vau Peseta (Deputy CEO), Matagi Nehru Mauala and other senior staff. In attendance were Director and UNESCO Representative to the Pacific States, Ms Nisha, India’s Consul-General to Samoa, Va’atu’itu’i, Apete Meredith, leaders from the education and private sectors and students.
The Soifua A’oa’oina is MESC’ initiative under the larger project, Samoa Knowledge Society Initiative (SKSI). It is being implemented in partnership with UNESCO and funded by the Indian-UN Development Partnership Fund.
Soifua A’oa’oina, MESC’s Innovative Lifelong learning lab, will be an inclusive innovation hub for training and collaboration that draws and identifies talents, mentors youths, provides accessible learning opportunities to the disabled, and provides pathways and skills required to meet the contemporary and future challenges of Samoa within the globalised economy.
In his opening remarks, the Minister of Education, Sports, and Culture Seuula Ioane, said that the launch marks another milestone achieved for the Samoa Education Sector through the support of our development partners and the Government of Samoa in our joint commitment to build the capacity for digital citizens by improving access to information, knowledge, Open Educational Resources (OER) and providing an innovation space for training, creating and mentoring for learners to quickly obtain new skills that are relevant and sustainable.
The Minister acknowledged and thanked the Ministry’s partners in making the MESC Innovative Lifelong Learning lab possible.
“On behalf of the people of Samoa, we wish to acknowledge and recognize the financial assistance and technical support from our development partners at UNESCO and the UN-India Development Partnership Fund. We are deeply grateful for your contribution to education in Samoa.
“We are also grateful to the Director for UNESCO and the UNESCO staff for all the technical assistance and the new partnerships created to help support MESC.”
The Minister pointed out the Government believes that the MILLL and its resources will provide a good model for MESC to replicate in other locations across Upolu and Savaii.
Therefore, providing more people with the same opportunities for access, training and upskilling to get new skills, become a digital citizen and contribute to the sustainable development of Samoa.
The Director and UNESCO Representative to the Pacific States, Ms Nisha, said that a Knowledge Society is a multi-pillar concept and in this multi-pillar concept, the essential pillars of the knowledge society are the freedom of expression, access to information, multilingualism and lifelong learning.
“Without freedom of expression, knowledge cannot freely circulate or new knowledge cannot be created; without access to information, no knowledge can be accessed and learning grown. Multilingualism is critical for equity in freedom and access and for diversity in knowledge.”
She stressed that lifelong learning is one of the foundational pillars of a knowledge society because without it knowledge would not be relevant.
In Samoa, this concept through this initiative promotes lifelong learning for teachers, education policymakers, and students of all ages as critical for attaining many other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Digital developments are possible only through the preparedness of the education sector and lifelong learning among stakeholders that match fast-evolving digital technologies.
The UN Resident Coordinator Dr Simona Marinescu, in her recorded message, said that access to knowledge is a prerequisite for progress against the SDGs.
“We cannot advance without great research, high-quality knowledge products and high-quality data.
The Lifelong Learning Lab involved extensive procurement and infrastructure building. Still, it is also an innovation hub that will provide great accessible solutions for persons with disabilities. It is a space for dialogue and co-creation of solutions, including access to open education resources for teachers and students.
“The lab will be accessible to all, generate results, and bring positive changes to benefit the Government and society.”
Due to travel restrictions, Muktesh K. Pardeshi, Indian High Commissioner to Samoa, was unable to make the event, but his remarks were delivered by Indian Consul to Samoa Va’atu’itu’i, Apete Meredith, on his behalf.
“The initiative was developed in the belief that access to information and knowledge represents for building inclusive knowledge societies. Information not only empowers people to make decisions but also allows them to exercise their rights, be economically active and learn new skills,” writes HE Muktesh Pardeshi.
His statement further said, “the Government of India, through the SKSI, looks to contribute towards Samoa’s vision of placing itself as a knowledge hub in the region to help in developing its E-Governments, E-Education and E-Health services.
India is a partner and true friend and would like to extend a helping hand to Samoa towards its social economic development.”
The Samoa Knowledge Society Initiative is financed by the India-UN Development Partnership Fund, which is administered by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation.
UNESCO developed this initiative in close cooperation with Simona Marinescu, PhD, UN Resident Coordinator for the Samoa Multi-Country Offices’ cluster, and a range of national stakeholders.