Samoa needs to promote a safe and nurturing learning environment that fosters a sense of belonging and positivity for students.
To do so, the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture now has a policy to provide guidance for all schools on promoting a safe, respectful and supportive school environment.
The policy is guided by the vision that all Samoan schools are to be safe, violence free, supportive and respectful teaching and learning communities.
“The right to education, right to respect, equality and fairness, a right to a safe teaching and learning environment, good quality education and others are guiding principles that encompass the importance of student and staff well being for effective teaching and learning in all school settings” the policy reads.
It has been developed to assist Samoan school communities.
“Much has been said about developing safe schools and eradicating corporal punishment which has been a widely-used behaviour management strategy in our education system for as long as I can remember,” the Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, Loau Keneti Sio stated.
“At the same time, other types of violence in schools have raised concerns for teachers, parents, caregivers, different organisations and institutions that work with our education system.
“Whatever forms it takes, the unsafe nature of behaviour in schools puts stress on young people and impacts their learning.
“It creates an unhealthy atmosphere resulting in mistrust, withdrawal, low self esteem, anxiety and isolation and increase absenteeism and academic failure to name a few.
The policy provides a vision, guiding principles, responsibilities of teachers and support staff/teachers, students, school leaders, families, communities and M.E.S.C.
“The National Safe School Policy and its supporting National Safe Schools Guidelines apply to all students, teachers, and staff members in all school settings.” the policy reads.
Based on the above guiding principles, it is critical for school communities to set the expectations to ensure the school setting caters for the social, emotional and physical safety of everyone through engaging and respecting all students, staff and families.
Therefore, students, families and school staff must work together to develop and live a shared school vision and model and nurture the attitudes that highlight the benefits from learning.”
Internationally, the effort to develop a positive culture in schools is a major emphasis in neighbouring countries such as Australia and New Zealand where the focus is all for schools to be safe and supportive, and place an importance on school being respectful teaching and learning environment and communities.
“Feeling safe is the key contributing factor to a sense of belonging which can allow learning to thrive,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake.
“In order to achieve their full potential, our young people deserve a safe and supportive learning environment which nurtures and maintains a positive approach for nurturing them through all levels of education.
“Research shows that creating a safe inclusive and healthy learning environment not only increases learning but can be a catalyst for creating non-violent communities.
For now, the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development and the Police are responsible for ensuring that the responsibilities in promoting safe schools are fulfilled, and schools conduct appropriate procedures in accordance with the policy, guidelines and laws.