Education - Purple stained thumbs

Politics is derived from the Greek word “politikos” which means “of, for or relating to citizens.”

Last weekend our country held its General Elections. Since 1960, we have used the National Ballot system to determine the future Members of Parliament. These representatives will then carry the responsibilities rightly handed to them for five years. 

Thousands flocked to the polls, eager to have their say in tomorrow’s fate. I vaguely remember the last elections, but the faint memories came back when I watched the crowds form on different fields and outside churches of various villages. What an event!

As a non-voter, the whole hullabaloo about elections and candidates doesn’t really spark my interest. I mean, why should I bother with an event I can’t participate in? Yet, the decisions and results made in those small polling booths will determine my future as a Samoan citizen and resident. It seems that the younger generation that I am a part of, don’t give much attention to this occurrence, and our excuse is because we are too young to vote. 

What about when we do reach the age of voting? In three years time I’ll be old enough to get my thumb stained purple. Certain questions would probably pop into my head:

Who do I vote for?

What changes do I want to see in the new government?

Have I been satisfied with my lot as a Samoan citizen for the past five years? 

Should I just vote for my family member to ensure I’m in their favour?

Where do my loyalties lie?

Why vote at all?

YES, it seems like a mundane topic, but the future of our country depends on the decision WE THE CITIZENS make when our thumbs are stained purple. Democracy means “for the people” so we are to be put first. We elect the leaders we trust to govern us justly, fairly, and beneficially – for ALL the citizens of our country. 

From my perspective as a seventeen year old, the problems I see are quite big. Here are some I have noticed over the past five years.

The economic status of Samoa looks like a seesaw. Instead of having an equally (or nearly equal) shared economic status, there seem to be two main groups trending: the really rich and the really poor. Can you see it? Here’s an example of this problem:

At certain food outlets you see obese, pre-diabetic individuals, feasting on unhealthy food INSIDE, while street vendors as young as 3 years old wander around, selling hairpins and perfume OUTSIDE. The child outside that building has the same needs as the kid eating inside, but where one has too much, the other doesn’t have enough. In a democratic nation where all people should be equal, such a sight of segregation shouldn’t be seen.

Last year I sat the SSLC exams for 2015. The paper I dreaded the most was the mathematics exam, because the year before caused so much debate and arguments around its “unfairness.” I feared correctly. It was frustrating, and I remember banging my head on the table afterwards. 

There is a marked difference between the level of education twenty years ago, and the state we are in now. A few years ago the “free education” project began. No child in a public school would have to pay any school fees. But does that mean a good education is guaranteed? Teachers and students don’t have a healthy relationship. This can be due to a teacher’s frustration about their pay or the frustration of the student because the teacher doesn’t care enough to explain, to make sure the class understands the subject.

My grandfather suffered from a heart attack 3 years ago. After two weeks in the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital he had to be added to a long list of patients to be sent overseas because he couldn’t be treated here in Samoa. I admire the tall, shiny building that now stands in the place of the old, tattered hospital. It has some of the state-of-the-art hospital equipment. But there’s no point in fancy equipment and gadgets if there are not enough doctors, no qualified technicians to operate and carry out operations and checkups, and not enough medicine. There are so many families in Samoa that have experienced deaths that could have been avoided if there were enough doctors and support staff, or the necessary equipment on hand with the relevant personnel and “know how”. 

These are a few personal problems that I’ve encountered. I need to ask myself whether I want those five years to be replayed again.  

However we have to realize that these problems are so gargantuan, that they won’t just disappear in five years.

So…what can I do? 

The key to all these problems is education. The more skilled people in a country, the smaller the gap between the rich and the poor. The better educated people are, the greater the skilled work force.

Not only does this boost the economy, but it also offers more services to our citizens. We should make it a priority to put education first above all else.

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