It’s time to get to work

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Barely after the new Members of Parliament have paused to catch their breath after that wonderful swearing in ceremony at Faleata yesterday, some college students have already thrown them one of the first tasks this term. 

We’re talking about the need to deal with the escalating violence among students on the streets of Apia. 

We agree that the issue is not new. It’s been around for years.

But there is a real sense of urgency that’s needed now to address this longstanding problem before someone is killed. Seriously.

 Folks, we believe it is only a matter of time before innocent lives are taken causing unimaginable pain, if nothing is done to address it. 

Indeed, Thursday’s all out brawl was a warning. 

The fight apparently involved students from Avele College, St. Joseph’s College and Don Bosco. It broke out at the bus terminal, sending innocent members of the public into a panic.

Elderly mothers and fathers, children had to run for cover as rocks were flying back and forth. Glass bottles were smashed all over the place as scenes resembling the madness we associate with war and civil unrest elsewhere unfolded in Apia.

 “We were here waiting for our bus to go home but we got hit by surprise,” said a female student from Avele. “We were defenceless, we came with our teachers but they didn’t care, they just attacked us.”

She said there were rocks, glass bottles and sticks thrown at them.

“We didn’t know what to do. We were scared,” she said, adding that students from Don Bosco in particular were not there to pick a fight with just the boys they were after any student from Avele including girls.

On a video that’s making the rounds on social media, an elderly mother could be clearly heard saying in Samoan; “e makua leaga gei kamaiki.” 

The tone of her voice was telling. She was tired, she had had enough.

We are too. When will this end?

Yesterday, Avele College was closed. 

Sports competitions scheduled for other schools – who had nothing to do with the fighting – were cancelled as well. It seems like every one – including innocent students – are paying the price for the behaviour or the misbehaviour of a few.

Prior to Thursday’s fight, three other students were in Police custody for another inter-school brawl.

Police media officer, Maotaoalii Kaioneta Kitiona, said the Police have simply had enough.

“We thought that giving them chances will teach them a lesson but that hasn’t happened,” he said. “These students are not learning so we believe that the only way some of them will learn is if we take them up to Tafa’igata and keep them in custody.”

We don’t envy the Police. While they have their faults now and then – like all of us – some times they have to make some tough decisions. Some people will question the decision to lock up the students. 

But would you do if you were in their shoes? 

When it comes to interschool violence in Samoa, everyone has had enough. We’re tired of talking, we are sick of resolutions and reconciliation meetings that don’t amount to anything. Something has to give.

According to the Police’s Media Officer, one of the biggest problems is old students who have nothing to do. Maotaoali’i said these students – who have fallen through the cracks in the system - incite the fights and they are using mobile phones to promote their violent rhetoric.

And here therein lies the biggest problem for Samoa. 

We have far too many unemployed young people roaming the streets doing nothing but thinking of trouble. It’s wonderful that a certain percentage of students gain opportunities to pursue tertiary education and eventually find jobs.

But not all of them do. The majority of students end up dropping out after college and these are the students we have been worried about for so long now. Unless they find a purpose in life, they will enter a world of petty crime just to get by. 

As if it was a warning of things to come, the brawl and stone throwing at the Savalalo bus terminal happened a few blocks away from where most of these Members of Parliament have been camping and have enjoyed their political merry making. It’s a sign. A worrying one too.

Are they listening? 

Are they paying attention to what is happening? 

The honeymoon is over. It’s time to get to work.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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