Bullying demands collective response: Tautua Samoa
The leader of the Tautua Samoa opposition party, Afualo Luagalau Salele, says recent revelations that the nation’s adolescents are the world’s most bullied are a reflection on family homes.
Samoa was recently identified as having the highest rates of bullying among adolescent males and females of any country in the world.
The study, published in EClinicalMedicine, an academic outlet affiliated with The Lancet, found 79 per cent of Samoan males and 70 per cent of females experienced bullying in the past month.
Afualo said that despite the roots of the bullying problem beginning at home, society as a whole had to shoulder the responsibility to confront it.
“The work needs to be carried fairly between the parents and teachers and also Churches,” he said during a press conference.
“Most of the students who possess [bullying] attributes, the cause is within families. The parents just leave their children without [teaching them] words of wisdom.”
Addressing the issue in schools may be proven difficult given a prohibition on corporal punishment and the grey areas around what constitutes reasonable force.
A week after the report surfaced, the Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, Loau Keneti Sio, appealed to teachers to be vigilant and look out for cases of students suffering from bullying.
The same sentiments were echoed by Afualo.
“Now that this report has surfaced, we will be going back to telling our children what to do which most definitely it starts from within families,” Afualo said.
Speaking from his years of experience as an academic, Afualo said he never laid a finger on a misbehaving student.
Instead, he would simply send them out of class: “If they do not know how to sit and walk accordingly, then they cannot be in my classroom.”
“Teachers need to watch intently and observe [such] behaviours in classes,” he said.
“If a child acts violently towards others, make them stay home and face their parents, let their parents deal with them."
Afualo said this had always been a proven way of dealing with poor behaviour in his classroom years.
He also said that increasing access to online content and communications media had changed dynamics within the schoolyard.
“There is so much technology right now, it is the content that is worrying,” he said.
“Even if it is not on T.V. but it will and can be found on the internet.”
Afualo admitted that the findings of the report were questionable, saying the Government needs to look into the content of its survey questionnaires to determine the accuracy of the data.
Afualo concluded that the response to bullying depended on the collective actions of students, parents, teachers and the Church.
“Hopefully the next time they do another report, [numbers] will be decreased,” he said.
But the Samoa National Party leader, Vui Seigafolava Masinamua, says the Government is to blame for the bullying rates amongst the adolescents.
“The problem starts from the top, and when the Government is a [bullying] government,” he said.
Vui said that unless the Government led by example, the problem cannot be addressed.