Congratulations to the cultural and church leaders from Vaimoso for coming up with a plan to try to address the problems caused by youth. The formation of gangs and lawless behaviour has been well documented in the media over the past months and at one stage it looked as though there had been a total loss of control.
The police were called in and many opinions were offered as to why this behavior was occurring. It should be noted that youth from Vaimoso were not the only perpetrators, there were others from villages in and around Apia as well.
As to why the bad behavior and the urge to be part of gangs had arisen, we were told it was a desire to belong and be accepted in a group; the breakdown of families; youth unemployment and the urban drift which has seen families moving to town from villages for schooling and jobs.
And there was probably truth in most, if not all the reasons that were offered.
Then there was the blame game which ensued as it often does when there is a problem.
So who caused this and what should be done?
Many people wanted to bring back corporal punishment (has it ever gone away?), new technology was said to be the cause, the clash of traditional and modern lifestyles were also offered up.
Amongst the finger pointing taking place, the issue of leadership – or a lack of leadership came up and matai and church ministers and clergy copped some flak.
Judging by the defensive stance taken by some of them, it was obviously a sore point and stirred up anger in some cases.
Father Mikaele Fonoti of the Vaimoso Catholic Church sounded particularly peeved being under the spotlight.
“Why would you want to waste your time on that gang when you can go get a job and help out with your family?” he asked the trouble makers.
“Instead you went and created these problems and then people criticised us, the leaders of the church asking what were we doing?
But wait, why should these leaders not be looked to for some action and not just words and endless laugas?
Come to think of it, one group has the power in the Village Councils, backed with stipends from government and the other, is able to thunder from the pulpit every Sunday as well as have contact with church youth groups.
So again, it was certainly not out of place to look to them for leadership which they are apparently loaded with.
It’s true that both groups see themselves as leaders in the community and have no compunction about telling families what they should and shouldn’t do.
At about the same time as Vaimoso came up with their plan to reintroduce Boys Brigade for youth and the unemployed, the Observer’s ‘Village Voices’ feature had begun with some fascinating and diverse opinions about life in the rural areas.
In particular on page 20 in today’s edition, you can read about one man’s take on what the Village Council is and isn’t, responsible for. Otemai lives in the village of Nofoali’i but he also offers an opinion on Village Councils in urban areas.
In the meantime, we sincerely hope that everyone in the Vaimoso village gets behind the plan the leaders have come up with.
With support, it could turn out to be new beginnings for the youth and unemployed.