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Former Kelston Boys' head boy calls for Pasifika unity in N.Z.

New Zealand-born Samoan and former Kelston Boys’ High head boy, Taito Eddie Tuiavii, has joined New Zealand Pasifika community leaders to call for peace after a teenager was stabbed at De La Salle College early this month.

The incident involved a 16-year-old teenager who suffered stab wounds after a group of about 30 school students became involved in a brawl. According to the New Zealand Herald, the brawl occurred outside the gates of De La Salle College in Māngere, Auckland.

This incident had intensified inter-school rivalries, specifically Kelston Boys’ High School and De La Salle. 

Taito has a wide-ranging background in public policy, education, and politics and is a former University of Auckland alumnus. He also manages the First Foundation's alumni programme and is also a trustee of the Kelston Old Boys Association.

He had attended a symbolic meeting with other leaders from De La Salle and Kelston Boys’ last Monday. 

Taito says he was approached by a handful of old boys who had initiated the kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) with the De La Salle community. 

"As a community leader whenever there is an opportunity to foster good relationships and ensure our young people are exposed to positive messaging – I am always keen," he said

And as a New Zealand-born Samoan, Taito believes culture still holds power, which means these rivalries can be solved by the practical application of “aoao mālū manogi o le lolo” (deliberation). 

"Face to face dialogue where, in a safe space, our young people can deliberate, have dialogue and engage in a conversation that informs their attitudes, thoughts and views," he added.

"Deliberation allows our young people to gather and raise their concerns in a way that others can listen to learn and not listen to understand. Rivalries are only further entrenched when people listen to respond rather than to learn."

Taito said that cultural differences did not explain the incidents, but rather the challenges that exist from a few students who drag everyone into their problems. 

He believes that if young people are supported to realise their true potential and are supported by positive role models, then their propensity for violence decreases and their zest to be good role models increases. 

He also highlighted that social media is a push factor towards these rivalries. 

"When it’s all said and done, beneath both uniforms are young men who were raised to love and respect, show kindness and compassion and to practice manners and restraint," Taito added.

"The challenge arises when you get a few bad apples who decide to drag everyone else into their selfish and thoughtless antics. The cause of any rivalry, really, is tension and angst with no suitable platform, place and space to deal with it.

"Social media when used to bring communities together and build our communities is great. But it can also exacerbate violence, negativity and unhealthy rivalries. Thus we must always be vigilant and watch out for the toxic nature of social media."

Taito's advice to Pacific students involved in these rivalries is the same advice he recalls his grandmother giving him and his siblings: "Our duty in life, is to do better than our parents, whose duty in life was to do better than their parents and so on."

“When kids realise the incredible sacrifice their parents and grandparents have made so that they might enjoy the things that they currently do, then wasting time on other things isn't important other than studying hard and working even harder to repay the lifetime debt of gratitude.”

At the symbolic meeting that Taito attended between De La Salle and Kelston Boys’ High School Taito, a peace fono was held for the two schools to put their rivalries behind them. 

The peace fono was initiated by the old boys from both schools. Once they were in agreement to meet at De La Salle, Tuiavii and other Kelston Boys’ members agreed to go with a tapa cloth as a customary and culturally appropriate gift. 

According to a live-streamed video posted on social media by an account connected to De La Salle, Tuiavii encouraged the schools to move beyond a mentality of rivalry, pride and competition. 

"Every time you walk out your door each morning, you carry your family name, you carry your parents, you carry your grandparents, and you carry the community that you're from," Tuiavi'i said

"Yes, it's incredibly difficult when there's all that testosterone and everyone is doing the cool thing, but think for a minute and ask yourself does this reflect well on the shoulders of giants you stand on? 

“10 times out of 10 it's a no."

Tuiavii also challenged the Pasifika youth to find more productive and positive outlets. 

"Your worth is far more significant than that three seconds in a brawl, your worth if you wish to prove it, is measured in how well you look after your parents, how well you look after your siblings, and by finishing high school and getting a job to support your loved ones," he added.

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