Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has assured the public that the government will do whatever it can to eliminate the problem of interschool violence once and for all.
“We’ve seen that there have been no improvements over the years,” he said. “The parents are obviously failing to do their part, so as the teachers.
“As a result the Government is now stepping up to find a solution to the matter.
“The issue has to stop. It’s getting out of control and it will only get worse if we don’t come up with a proper plan to end it.”
Tuilaepa did not reveal what that plan is yet.
But his comments follow weeks of fighting between colleges in and around Apia. Last week, 19 students from Avele College, St. Joseph’s College and Don Bosco were arrested and charged as a result.
Elsewhere, Faleata College was ambushed on Tuesday, forcing the teachers to send the students home early.
The Police Media officer, Maotaoalii Kaioneta Kitiona, confirmed that seven suspects have been arrested and charged with throwing stones. They could face further charges, pending the Police investigation.
In the meantime, the government’s intervention is welcomed news to members of the public who have expressed frustrations about the issue.
The new Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, Loau Keneti Sio, said the issue has already been discussed by Cabinet.
“This is a major concern,” he said.
“It’s a big problem that needs to be eliminated. We are now looking at proper ways to address the problem. It happened before and we believe that with the technologies nowadays, the problem is getting worse.”
Loau said Cabinet is treating the matter as urgent, which is why it was discussed during one of Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s first Cabinet meetings for his new line up.
Loau said Cabinet Ministers expressed grave concerns about the issue but they could not finalise their decision as they were awaiting further details from the Ministry of Education.
“The report that was given to us by the Ministry of Education was incomplete and so the matter has now been deferred to the next Cabinet Meeting for a solution. So we will come up with the best solution for this issue next week.”
Like the Prime Minister, the Minister believes parents and guardians have a major role to play.
“Let’s not blame the teachers for what’s happening,” he said.
“The Bible says that if we train our children the way they should go when they are young, they will never depart from it when they grow up.
“So I really think that it all starts from the parents. They play a huge role in solving this issue.”
Having said that, Loau thinks that teachers having to go to the bus stop now to monitor the student’s action is inappropriate.
“They work in the classrooms from 8:00- 2:00pm and then they have to go and stand in town and wait until all the students are getting on the buses safe and watch over the students after school. This is terrible. Now what kind of life is that?
“No one is perfect,” he added. “But I think it all starts from the bottom and from the family. This kind of problem is the result of their upbringing. If parents are not careful and are not teaching them well, this is what their children will end up like.”
He believes that while there are a kids fighting in town, we also need to look at those who are smart enough to stay away from trouble.
“Yes, there are kids fighting in public places, but there are also kids who are committed to their studies and perform well in school. It makes us wonder why they behave differently?
“There are a lot of kids who do well in school and make their parents proud. Those kids are affected in some way because of a few of other students who cause troubles in public places.”
He added that fighting in public does not make anyone a champion.
“This is a new era where we say that fighting in public places does not make you a champion. You become a champion when you do well in school and be the top student or students in your school. That’s a real champion.”
Lastly, Loau wants everyone to work together.
“Parents, church leaders, village councils, teachers, government and students need to work together to solve this problem. Let’s share the load and it will be lighter.”
Last week, the Tactical Operation Section (T.O.S) of the Ministry of Police moved in to do spot checks for all the students at the bus terminal after school.
Part of this includes checking school bags, the moment they get off the bus at the Savalalo bus terminal.
Referred to as Operation “Riots,” Maotaoalii said the Police have a responsibility to ensure members of the public and students are protected.
“There have been students charged with being armed with dangerous weapons that were found in their school bags,” said Maota.
“During the first few days, members of the T.O.S team confiscated several sharp objects such as pocket knives, screwdrivers, and scissors from students’ school bags.”
Maota said gone are the days when the Police gave students a chance.
“In the past we were very lenient,” he said. “But this problem is getting worse and we feel that we need to teach the students a lesson that they will be dealt with harshly if they want to be involved in these incidents.
“Because the more they give them chances, the more they abuse those chances.
“Some of the students just don’t care about the police. They think they are cool and by acting the way they do, they think others will like them.
“We are here to show that they will be locked up if they misbehave.”