Impact of school closure
The closure of Avele has far more ramifications than students missing out on critical learning days.
That was the general consensus among students, parents and teachers after a meeting with the Prime Minister inside his office. There were tears on the faces of most of them as they left.
Saina Timo, an old student of Avele College, said the decision was biased because Avele College is not the only school that has been involved in the fights.
“This is sad and very disappointing for all of us because it has ruined the name and reputation of the school,” she said. “Avele College had nurtured me to become the person I am today, and I know it’s the same for the rest of those who came through the school.”
Saina said the situation today calls for the reinstatement of Lafaitele Aiga Esera as the principal.
“Despite her being a female principal, she was still able to control the behaviour of the students. She was a God-fearing woman who had a great influence and impact on us students in a very positive way.
“She had a strong voice and she held the school together with God as the foundation. And I think we need to bring that spirit back.”
Alofa Malietoa, a parent of two students attending Avele College said the decision made by Cabinet is acceptable and understandable.
“The Prime Minister was talking as a parent during the meeting,” she said. “And as a parent I fully understand and accept what he said in the meeting.
“I think the decision from Cabinet is a wakeup call for all of us. Not only for all the students from Avele and other schools who have been involved with school fights, but also for the teachers and principals but most importantly a message for us parents.”
She believes that family is where everything begins and that parents also play a major role in solving this issue.
“Everything starts from family and if we parents do our duty well, teachers and police don’t have to face all these troubles.
“We all come from different backgrounds and then we have all these kids who grew up in different environments attending one school. If the children are witnessing violence at home, they will bring violence into schools.
“This decision with no doubt has affected a lot of people. But on the brighter sides of things, it can be a reminder to all of us that we all need to work together for a better Samoa. Remember it takes a whole village to raise a child, and it takes a whole nation to raise good leaders.”
But Mrs. Malietoa said the decision had affected his two sons.
She said he eldest son is in Year 12 now and he was doing well with his studies in Avele. “He has been affected by this decision so badly. I also have another son who is in Year 9 and he doesn’t want to attend another school he said he will wait for Avele to be reopened.”
Alofa’s son, Lloyd Avele Huh, a Year 12 student at Avele College, said the decision made by government has had a huge impact on the students. He believes the decision was unfair.
“It’s very unfair for us who were not involved in the school fights,” he said.
“It has been two weeks since they closed down the school and that’s also two weeks away from education for us. I really want to go back to school because I am missing out on a lot, but there’s nothing that I can do.
“It has affected us so bad; so bad that if we try and enrol into another school, it doesn’t matter if they see you have good grades, but once they see that you are from Avele, they will say bad stuff and they will give you that look as if you are a criminal. They call us troublemakers.”
Lloyd believes that the interschool violence starts from very small issues and some students make a big deal out of it.
“Well it starts from small stuff like when one boy from our school or another school steps on another students foot, and then they make a big deal out of it. Other reason is when they bring in their personal problems from their villages and families to schools.”
Lloyd is now attending Fa’atuatua Christian College.
However, he said he feels sorry for his other brothers and sisters who cannot afford to attend private schools while waiting for a decision from Cabinet.
“Because I heard that other government schools are not accepting students from Avele College. I think the decision was biased because we weren’t the only school involved. Other school were involved as well but why did they decide to close only Avele.
“I know and understand that other schools involved were all church schools, but didn’t they disturb the peace and caused a lot of chaos in public places as well?
“A lot of our students were injured as well from the school fights, and they are now acting as if students from other schools were the only ones that were injured? We are also Samoans and we want to go to school, what about us that were never involved in all these fights?
“Please we really want to go back to school and we really want Avele to reopen again.”
However, Papali’i Tagaloa Poloa, the President of Avele said that they understand and accept the decision made by government.
“According to the Prime Minister, the main reason why they are standing by their decision is because this had happened so many times and it’s like an illness with no cure,” he said.
“And as the Father of the nation, he made the decision based on what he and Cabinet think is best for the safety of public and other students.”
Moreover, Papali’i said that the decision made can be a message not only for Avele but also for other schools who have been involved with interschool violence.
“But we had to wait until they make a decision on Monday whether they will close the school permanently or they will reopen it again.”
Papali’i also told the media that the teachers will now set up evening classes for Year 12 and Year 13 students so that they can catch up on their studies.