Pohnpei Governor addresses Bills, Education, Measles, and Micronesia Games

By Bill Jaynes The Kaselehlie Press July 1, 2014 Pohnpei, FSM—

Today, Pohnpei’s Governor John Ehsa held a press conference. During the conference he discussed the bills he had sent to the Legislature, the Pohnpei measles outbreak, school test results, and the preparations for the 8th Micronesia Games.

 Legislative bills

 In time for its May regular session the Governor sent two bills to the Legislature which he said, “until now” are still pending. One was designed to establish a Trust Fund for Pohnpei State. “Word on the ‘Strategic Development Plan’ is out, and there are interested donors already available and waiting for creation of the Trust Fund,” he said. The other involves the creation of the United Revenue Authority.

While he said that he appreciated the work the legislature had done thus far, and that he understands the current position of the legislature, he recommended a compromise position to demonstrate that the state is willing to undertake reforms to move Pohnpei forward. He said that his bill (12-12 sic) would allow other states to move ahead with the reforms but that it should contain a proviso for a two or three “wait-and-see” period to give Pohnpei an opportunity to review the pros and cons for the proposed system before finally deciding whether Pohnpei “will participate or not”. In the interim he requested that the Legislature pass 163-13, the Services Tax Bill, as a compromise in order to mitigate the negative effects of the step down in the Compact funds. 

The English language agenda of his press conference said that the Governor also submitted LB No. 264-14 dealing with the reorganization of the Executive Branch of the government. LB 264-14 proposed that the Department of Education’s Division of Primary Education be renamed to the Division of Elementary Education. It also recommended that a new Division of Support Services be added to the Department of Education. It proposes that the Department of Land and Natural Resources should be renamed as the “Department of Land” in order to “give back authorization and care of natural resources to those departments that are already overseeing the responsibilities related to natural resources, such as marine resource protection and enforcement to be placed under the Division of Fish and Wildlife of the Department of Public Safety.” He said that the functions of the Offices of Fisheries and Aquaculture would be reworded under the bill to specially provide for the function of Marine Conservation and the function of Marine Development. 

pohnpei govenor

The proposed Executive re-organization would dissolve the office of Economic Affairs and create a new Department of Tourism, Agriculture, and Economic Resources. The new department would include the Division of Agriculture, the Division of Forestry, and the Division of Tourism and Historic Preservation. He said that the Pohnpei State Legislature had passed a $6.1 million dollar appropriation under the Health Sector Compact Assistance. $71,000 of that allocation was for prevention of non-communicable diseases.

 Measles Outbreak

 “Pohnpei is currently experiencing an outbreak of measles,” the Governor’s English language version of his agenda said. “The first measles case was reported at the Pohnpei Department of Health Services on May 26, 2014. Subsequently, more cases were reported and reached their peak in mid June 2014. As of June 25, 2014, 55 cases have been reported. Infants and young children are mostly affected, particularly those with no measles immunity acquired through vaccination or exposure to the wild measles virus.

 

“On June 16, 2014, a mass emergency vaccination campaign was launched to prevent measles in Pohnpei. In this campaign, all children as young as 6 months old to adults until the age of 49, regardless of previous history in getting MMR dose(s) will receive a MMR dose. The MMR vaccine is very safe and does not cause any major side effects. Even if you have been previously vaccinated or have received an MMR vaccine in the past, getting an additional dose of the vaccine is still safe. The whole campaign will last for 4 weeks. Several vaccination teams are going to the communities vaccinating individuals. “As of June 26, 2014, 19,102 individuals (62% of the target population) had received their vaccines. We have 2 more weeks for the vaccination. Anyone who has not received their MMR vaccine is urged to get their dose in the communities during the community visits or at public health. In order to successfully control the outbreak, 95% of the entire target population will receive a dose of the MMR vaccine during the campaign.

 

 “In addition to the emergency vaccination campaign, several actions such as disease surveillance, epidemiological investigation, patient management, and community awareness on measles are currently underway. “The health and well-being of the citizens of Pohnpei state is a public health priority and the vaccination campaign strives to maintain this”, the Governor’s statement said.

 

 School Test results

 

 70 percent of elementary school students passed the High School entrance examination as compared to 76 percent last year. His evaluation of the College of Micronesia Entrance Test for the three State High Schools led him to state that the overall test scores this year were favorable as compared to last year’s results. In 2013, 38 percent of Pohnpei Island Central School (PICS) made test scores high enough for a degree entry program. In 2014 the percentage had fallen to 32 percent. 29 percent of Madolenihmw High School’s (MHS) students had scores sufficient to be accepted into a degree program in 2013. 30 percent of MHS students had high enough scores this year.

 

In 2013, 35 percent of students tested at Nanpei Memorial High School (NMHS) had scores high enough for acceptance into a degree program at COM-FSM. This year 37 percent qualified for the degree program. At PICS, 26 percent of students qualified for a certificate program in 2013. This year 40 percent of students qualified. 47 percent of MHS students’ test scores qualified for the certificate program in 2013. This year 49 percent of them did so. At NMHS, 39 percent of students qualified for a certificate program in 2013. This year it was 45 percent. The failure rate on the test isn’t particularly good but seems to be improving amongst all of the Pohnpei High Schools, though only by a small margin. In 2013, 36 percent of PICS students did not meet the basic entry requirements for the College of Micronesia. In 2014, only 28 percent of students tested did not meet basic entry requirements. At MHS 37 percent did not meet entry requirements. In 2014, only 22 percent didn’t test well. In 2013, 27 percent of students at NMHS didn’t pass the COMET, but in 2014, only 19 percent of its students didn’t meet the minimum requirements for the test.

 

 8th Micronesia Games

 

 The Governor was not expansive in his pre-conference English language materials on the preparations for the 8th Micronesia Games. He said that the venues for the games are set and that there will be 14 sports. Charter flights for the delegations that will participate in the games will arrive beginning on July 17. Transportation for athletes is set. At the time of the press conference, 33 buses and mini vans from the Department of Education had been arranged. Registration and issuance of IDs is in progress. Donations for the games are still coming in. Volunteers are still being enlisted. The Department of Health is working hard for the prevention of contagious diseases and are especially vigilant given the recent outbreak of measles. He strongly suggested that visitors be vaccinated against measles at least two weeks prior to the start of the games. 

 

 

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