The Director of the Catholic Education in Samoa, Aeau Chris Hazelman, has offered an apology to innocent members of the public affected by the behaviour of students involved in a brawl at Savalalo on Thursday.
“I use this opportunity to sincerely apologize to the whole of Samoa, the parents, to the government to all who have been affected by these unfortunate incidents,” Aeau said during an interview with the Sunday Samoan.
He said it does not matter which school the students come from, as a leader, he feels that they are his children too.
“I beg for your forgiveness Samoa. I ask for your patience as we let the law takes its course and we continue to ask that we work together.”
The apology from Aeau follows an all out brawl involving students from Don Bosco, St. Joseph’s College and Avele College on Thursday. The fight left many students injured and it led to the arrest of several students.
Speaking on behalf of the Catholic schools involved, Aeau said there is no excuse for the students’ behaviour.
“We have decided to let the law carry its course and we will support the police in their investigation,” he said. “I’m not going to say who’s at fault, I leave that to the hands of the police as part of their investigation. All I can do is beg the parents for their support.”
Aeau said there is a new element in the fights of late. He referred to the use of cell phones and social media by students to incite violence as a new “dilemma,” something that is beyond the schools’ control.
“The types of information that is going around social media and websites such as Facebook, the level of feelings of negativity, the level of anger of one person to another has reached new heights because of status and comments through the use of Facebook and social media. They have basically added to the fire.”
And this is where he wants parents to step in to help.
Since it is the parents who give children mobile phones and access to the internet, Aeau is asking them to please monitor these activities.
“Please be aware about what your sons and daughters are putting on social media,” he said.
In the past, Aeau said interschool violence was normally sparked by sporting contests. But the advent of these technological advances have brought their own challenges.
“We are trying our best to deal with these issues with the help of our parents, our family and the whole community.”
At the Catholic schools, Aeau said they have made it very clear to the students that when they leave the school compound, whether they are walking home, riding the bus or at the market, that these are public places.
“The language that you use in a public place may be an offence under the law,” he said. “We have also made it very clear that if there should be any type of physical harm to another individual in a public place, that too is an offence.”
He added that students are well aware that if they break the law, they will be handed to the Police. Unlike Avele College, which was closed on Friday, Aeau said they used the opportunity to find ways to address the issue. The Director met with the Principal of Don Bosco Father Chris and other senior officers of the schools to iron out a way forward.
St. Joseph’s College held its feast day on Friday to celebrate the day of their patron Saint. Aeau said usually every year; the school would have a morning mass, then sports before the feast.
On Friday, the sports were cancelled to send a message to the students that the behaviour of the students involved in the brawl was unacceptable.
Aeau is again urging the community to work together to resolve the issue.