Kupuna belong
in isle classrooms


Lacking federal guidance, state public school officials set aside degree requirements for the Hawaiian elders.

SCHOOLS Superintendent Pat Hamamoto made the right decision in exempting kupuna from federal requirements so they may continue to teach Hawaiian culture in public elementary schools, enriching education for children in Hawaii.

The Kupuna Program that passes on Hawaiian traditions and language through elders should be as much a part of teaching children about the history of the islands they inhabit as book learning.

Navigating through No Child Left Behind directives on qualifications for instructors has been a challenge for state officials. Earlier this year, the Department of Education struggled to reconcile college-degree requirements for substitute teachers after asking for guidance from the federal government, to no avail. The DOE, erring on the side of caution, planned to cut more than a quarter of substitute teachers from its hiring rolls, but later altered that decision to give the substitutes time to obtain needed credentials.

For the 250 kupuna involved in the program that has been in place since 1981, Hamamoto deftly bypassed the qualification requirement by classifying them as "cultural personnel resources" rather than teachers or paraprofessionals, who must have two-year associate's degrees. Even the federal government should have the flexibility to recognize the capabilities of Hawaiian elders to deliver to youngsters the wealth of their experience and cultural knowledge without having earned a pedagogic degree.

The DOE also cleared another NCLB hurdle by winning approval for its plan to comply with the act. However, federal funding to meet the act's dictates still falls far short, with the government providing only about half of the $211 million the state estimates it needs.

Hawaii doesn't stand alone; other state officials across the nation are complaining about the lack of money. Their pleas for more have fallen on deaf ears in Washington. Hawaii's congressional delegation as well as Republican Governor Lingle should be raising a ruckus now, before the funding deficit damages the state's ability to fulfill the law's benchmarks.

Before dispensing with the degree requirements for kupuna, the DOE sought a waiver for the program, but never received a response. Federal officials' continuing disregard should deny them any say about the matter later. We asked; they didn't say no.


Extradition of rebel
is a positive sign


A Colombian guerrilla has been extradited to the U.S. to face charges of participating in the killing of a Hawaii woman and two others.

COLOMBIA'S extradition to the United States of a rebel accused in the killing of Hawaii's Lahehenae Gay and two companions is the most recent sign of a heightened effort to bring that country's 40-year guerrilla war to an end. A hard-line policy by President Alvaro Uribe and increased aid by the Bush administration have resulted in a bold assault on an insurgency that is America's largest supplier of heroin and cocaine.

Gay, an environmentalist and cultural preservationist on the Big Island, was shot to death in 1999 along with American Indian activists Ingrid Washinawatok and Terence Freitas in Venezuela, near the Colombian border. Gay, 39, was founder of the Pacific Cultural Conservancy International in 1989 in Pahoa. The three had been helping an indigenous Colombian group, the U'wa people, set up a school and protest oil drilling by Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum Corp. in jungles near the Venezuelan border.

Ironically, President Bush has been accused of being motivated by oil in launching "Plan Colombia" in 2000 with the declared purpose of combating terrorism and narcotics traffic. The Bush administration has given $1.9 billion in aid to Colombia, including money to be spent on training the Colombian army and police to fight guerrillas.

The latest installment included $98 million to buttress the training of Colombian soldiers by 70 U.S. Special Forces to protect a 500-mile stretch of pipeline jointly owned by Occidental and the Colombian government. Leftist guerillas reportedly bombed the pipeline 170 times in 2001.

Nelson Vargas Rueda, 33, who faces trial in the United States for participating in the killing of Gay, Washinawatok and Freitas, is a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, or FARC, the larger of two leftist rebel groups. Five other members of the FARC have been indicted in the case but have yet to be extradited. The FARC has admitted its members are responsible for the killings, blaming a rogue lower-level commander whom it says it will punish.

Rueda is the first Colombian guerrilla to be extradited to the United States. He is among 43 Colombians extradited to the United States, mostly for drug-trafficking charges, during the 10 months that Uribe has been president. That compares to 51 extraditions during the entire four-year term of Uribe's predecessor, Andres Pastrana.



Oahu Publications, Inc. publishes the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, MidWeek and military newspapers

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