There’s no doubt about it. What the people of this country need are jobs and plenty of them. The high unemployment rate coupled with the skyrocketing cost of living is making life miserable for many people.
But that’s not all. In Samoa today, there are far too many able-bodied young people roaming the streets doing nothing. They are hanging around corners of shops and congregating on the side of the road proving a real menace to motorists. Some of them look drugged up. They are a time bomb waiting to go off. And more often than not, these young people end up committing unthinkable crime since they have nothing else to get excited about.
But our problems go much deeper than that. Many children who are supposed to be learning to count at primary schools are not.
How do we know? It’s simple. All you need to do is drive around downtown Apia and you’ll see that despite multiple laws to stop young kids from hawking goods on the streets, it’s having a very minimal impact.
Last week, we highlighted the story of Fili and Latasi. The young boys have become quite thick skinned when they are questioned about why they are not in school.
“People go to work but we come here to sell this stuff because this is what we do,” Fili said. The young boy lost his mother not long after he was born. A few years ago, his father collapsed at work and the responsibility of looking after him has since fallen on his shoulders.
“All I want is a good life for me, my brother and my father who is sick. It’s what puts food on the table.”
But it’s a tough life.
“On Friday last week, I was in town the whole night. I was trying to sell all of this … I need money to feed my father.
“I was beaten by some old drunken men in front of the bank and they took all my coins. I was crying and my nose was bleeding. Then a taxi driver chased them away… he (taxi driver) told me to go home…he gave me $5 to buy food. I felt really sick.”
Fili’s story is not unusual. Outside a pharmacy in town a mother had set up her stall there with at least two young boys and a girl carting goods to and fro, begging passers by for loose change. The mother obviously didn’t care that Parliament had passed a law, which prohibits these kids from selling goods when they should be at school.
The fact this mother was openly exposing herself and her children to the risk of prosecution from roving Police officers – who are supposed to enforce the law – spoke volumes about this family’s situation. Asked if she knew that what she was doing is illegal, the mother’s response said it all.
“E le ma le mativa,” she whispered in Samoan. Translated to English, the poor cannot be ashamed. She had a point, I thought. If she is ashamed to sell on the streets, how else can she feed her family? Where else can they get money for cash power, food, clothes and all those basic needs?
“But don’t you think that if you send your children to school they will have an education and one day earn jobs to give you some money?” the mother was asked.
“What’s the point of waiting?” she responded. “I’m getting on. I can’t wait for my children to grow old and then make money. They can make money today and when I die, I’ll give them my blessings.
“This is the way we grew up. We lived a tough life but we survived. This is why we are here today.”
Was the gift of life given to us so we can merely exist?
If that is so, that perhaps explains this woman’s mentality. It is one of survival on a daily basis. Which means this woman and her family have no other dreams apart from living day by day.
It’s heartbreaking. Sadly, there are many parents like her. These are the types who do not get excited about the prospect of dreams and living a different life. They cannot get themselves out of that mindset that this is the only way to live.
It doesn’t help that their parents didn’t place much emphasis on education either. Having grown up in an environment where education did not feature in their plans, they cannot picture their children taking a different path.
Which is the saddest part about what is happening today. The fact is that life today is so much more complicated than yesteryears. We are living at a time when success is measured by our ability to keep abreast with changing times.
Which requires parents to change their mindsets if they want their children to survive the tough realities of today. They must have a vision. And that vision should be about far more than merely surviving on a daily basis. It should be about their children succeeding in school and growing up to carve out their own destinies.
What we are seeing in most of these cases is a repeat of a vicious cycle. That’s the mentality that “if my father is poor, I should also be poor.”
That mentality is continuing to make some people poor, very poor.
The challenge is to change that confession. We are what we say we are. That is the reality of life. It’s a Biblical principle too.
Which means we need to change. So instead of telling ourselves we are poor and stupid, we should look at ourselves differently. Remember the popular saying; “Always aim for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars?”
The challenge is how can we get this message through to parents who cannot see past the next meal? How do we convince them that education is the key to a prosperous future? These are tough questions. In fact we’ve been asking ourselves for years and we still don’t seem to have found the answer.
The point is that parents must look to the future and see the bigger picture. And education plays such a vital part in that future. What they need to know is that without a decent education, life will continue to become a struggle. That without a good level of education, children cannot venture beyond their little world so that they will be stuck in that rut forever.
We’ve seen today how educated children have changed the prospects for their families. That the higher your educational achievements are, the better your chances of creating opportunities for yourself and helping people close to you. And the better your opportunities are, the better your quality of life is.
There’s no other way to put it.
What do you think?
Have a productive Wednesday Samoa, God bless!