We need a real solution

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 04 May 2016, 12:00AM

This is the undeniable truth. Samoa’s economy by any estimation is weak compared to that of our bigger neighbours. Without aid, remittances and tourism, it would have floundered long ago. 

Today we are living in a very challenging time. The sight before us is not a good one. It’s worrying indeed. 

The signs are manifesting in many different forms. Whereas beggars and street vendors on the streets are multiplying quicker than we can count, the social ills we see every day tells us that something is just not right.

Take interschool brawls for example. 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 be done and now. 

You see, when Police in riot gear replace students at a compound on a school day, that is enough to alarm us that not all is well. There is something seriously sickening about the developments of today.

Indeed, 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. 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. 

The story titled “Threat shuts school” published in yesterday’s Samoa Observer sent chills up the spine. The story talked about how Police officers in full riot gear took over the compound of Maluafou College on a school day.

As a result, students were promptly sent home and the school was shut yesterday. The decision followed a threat made on Facebook with a post by someone identified as “Vadoz Lokoz” calling on students to bring knifes, petrol bombs and rocks for the attack. 

 “Beat all the boys and girls of the school, no one is to be spared including the teachers,” the post reads. The note instructs year 9 students to bring small knives, year 12 students to bring bottles and year 13 students are asked to bring petrol.

“Make sure you beat up the girls of Maluafou as if you are beating up a boy… and stab them with the knives.”

Seriously? What is going on in Samoa? Who does this?

The last time there was a problem within schools, Police identified that one of the biggest problems is old students who have nothing to do but cause trouble.

At that time, the Police said these students – who have fallen through the cracks in the education system - incite the fights and they are using mobile phones to promote their violent rhetoric. 

And that’s where we believe the biggest problem lies 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. 

So if we really want a permanent solution, a good start is identifying the root cause of the problem. We’ve had enough of the band aid solutions that don’t work. The problem is not the schools, it is not the teachers and it is definitely not Facebook and technology.  

The real problem are young people who have nothing better to do but dream up these ridiculous schemes to make a name for themselves. The question is, will they have time for any of this silly stuff if they had better things to occupy their minds? Like jobs? Or other productive ways to satisfy their needs?

Which brings us back to the point we’ve been making for a long time now. The government needs to be creative in their thinking. With so much fertile land available in Samoa, we need an agriculturally-oriented project which could cater for young people, providing them employment and money.

Think of many huge plantations of all sorts of fruits such as pineapples, oranges, mangoes, vi and whatnot, around both Upolu and Savai’i. 

They employ young people living there so that the exodus to Apia stops, and poverty and hardship are addressed. 

When the crops are harvested they are exported to China and elsewhere; unemployment drops; more employed people contribute with taxes and they are now more likely to become law-abiding citizens. 

Young people will have better ways to use their social media skills, to promote the work they do instead of inciting violence as we have seen.

The point is that we’re tired of these superficial solutions and feel good talk just to appease tensions for a moment. 

If we want what’s happening today to end, we need to be conceptual, objective and think outside box. 

We need innovation, new ideas. 

What do you think? Have a wonderful Wednesday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 04 May 2016, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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