Let the closure of Avele be the start of a deeper conversation

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

We can’t blame the government for its decision to close Avele College temporarily as the Police investigate death threats allegedly made by students on social media. 

Although it might seem harsh – especially on innocent students and teachers who have suddenly found themselves punished severely for the actions of a few “idiots” – the government has a job to protect our people and for that we cannot fault their decision. 

We say this because the threats in question are serious and one just cannot be ignorant of the possible consequences. When young people talk about “beating girls like boys” and “stabbing them to death,” you have to worry.

Indeed, the safety of students and members of the public is paramount. 

You see, when a fight broke out between students of Avele and Maluafou College last Friday, the safety of members of the public was compromised. The rock throwing damaged vehicles and nearby properties. 

But that was just one incident. Throughout the year, hardly a week has passed by without some sort of school brawl in a public place. And every time a schoolfight breaks out, lives of members of the public are placed at risk – by no fault of theirs. 

This is why the decision by the government – although seems reactionary – is the correct one. It at least sends out the message that they are serious about addressing this rot sooner rather than later.

But will it solve the problem? Will it finally bring an end to the school fights? 

We don’t think so. This is yet another band aid solution. 

Why? It’s not just the students of Avele College that have been involved in the fights. We don’t have to tell you the other usual culprits.

It’s a pity that because of the misbehaviuor of a few, the chance of an education for the majority of well-mannered students at Avele has been removed from them. 

Is it the school’s fault? We don’t think so? 

We’ve said this before and we will say again now; it is not the school’s fault that these young people are behaving like possessed madmen. We accept that schools do have a part to play and interschool rivalry is a contributing factor. 

But attitudes and behaviours are shaped at home. Which means that if students misbehave, it’s not entirely correct for society to blame the teachers and the schools. 

We believe it’s the parents who should be held accountable. The churches and villages too should take the blame to some extent. We say this because this is where morals and values are taught and nurtured.

Let me explain again. The teachers – and the education system for that matter – should be slammed when students fail at school. That’s simply because it is their job to ensure the students pass their exams. 

So if the school system keeps producing dumb students, we should question the teachers. That’s placing the blame where it should be.

But to frown upon teachers and the education system because of the ongoing interschool violence in Apia is wrong and it should be stopped. 

Let’s be reminded here that charity begins at home. In other words, if a young boy or girl is raised by parents and guardians to respect others and the law at home, they are more likely to grow up and never forget those lessons. 

For far too long, every time the issue of violence and poor behavior among students surfaces, we are very quick to blame the schools, teachers, sports and everything else. Some of the blame is justified. 

But most times, we miss the mark. We never stop to point the finger at ourselves.  What are we doing about it? How are we contributing to it?

What influence are those violent movies on TV having on these students? 

What about stories in newspapers that seem to glorify wrongdoing and bad behaviour? 

Interestingly, the so-called new dynamic in the violence of today is the internet and mobile phones. Who allowed these technological advances into Samoa? 

Who is the genius who came up with the idea to free up the telecommunication sector so that now everyone has access to Facebook, YouTube and all other social sites? 

Whose fault is it that our people are ill prepared and often abuse these tools because they weren’t properly equipped about its pros and cons in the first place?

Ladies and gentlemen, the teachers and the education system cannot be blamed for these. These are societal ills. It is a failure on the part of the system we have.

We are all responsible. I am responsible, you are responsible, the leaders are responsible; we all have a role to play. 

We agree these fighting students are a bunch of idiots. But those idiots are part of us, they are Samoans, this community raised them up? So what are we to do? Where do we go from here?

Firstly, we need to go back to the basics in terms of our family values. 

These so  “idiots” need to be loved, made to feel accepted and perhaps be given something better to do than dreaming up these silly ideas. 

The point is that these problems are in our community; we all have a role to play in finding the solution. We cannot just point the finger, we have to look deeper, inwards and re-evaluate where our priorities are and what we, as a community, is reaping as a result.

Have a safe Thursday Samoa, God bless!

 

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