Samoan children aware of social issues

Children in Apia are aware of social problems such as drunkenness and violence that are plaguing families, according to the findings of a research study.

A report titled “Childhood in a changing Pacific”, which was compiled by a team of academics from the National University of Samoa (N.U.S.) and the University of Otago, was launched at the N.U.S. Campus last Friday.

The study’s sample population were children aged between 6–14 from with the researchers working with 36 children in Dunedin and 35 in Apia. 

The Dunedin children were recruited through churches and included children from different Pacific communities, though mainly Tongan and Samoan. In Apia the children were recruited through extended families, a church and an urban village.

The participating children drew a map of their neighbourhood, answered interview questions about their families, communities and their future as well as used iPads to take photos of things that mattered to them. 

“Samoan children were overall more aware of social problems such as drunkenness and more threatening behaviours,” read the report.  

A child aged 9 from Apia, who when asked if she thought Samoa is a good place, she answered: “No, because there is a lot arguments and fights, many cases of domestic violence.”

She was also asked if she would like to move to a different country like New Zealand or Australia, she said: “No, Samoa is better.” 

This led to the researchers wanting to examine the effects of migrations and associated changes on their families, communities and their sense of belonging, identity and how they see their future going forward.

“Pacific children’s voices have been little heard and seldom researched so it was important that this research gave children the opportunity to explain their lives from their perspective,” the report further states.

Furthermore, it stated that the children in the study showed the importance of having their voices heard.

The research was funded by the University of Otago.

According to the N.U.S. President and Vice Chancellor, Professor Alec Ekeroma, the study is an important piece of work.

“It is because it looks at the lives and experiences of the children both here in Samoa and New Zealand, as a contrast to see what is important and what they go through and that is depicted in pictures and stories being told,’ said the NUS Vice Chancellor. “There are some important differences there, and those should inform policies in delivery of social policy for children’s care, for community projects.

“I think that the finds of this study should inform social and health policy both in Samoa and also in New Zealand when it comes to delivery of those services to Pacific families.”

One of the research report’s authors, Dr. Niusulu told this newspaper that in terms of the findings of the research, “children know quite a lot about the things that happen around them.”

“You will see the richness of the data we got, as I said in our presentation, they know a lot about their communities and families.

“Technology has had a lot to do with informing them about their relatives overseas.”

One of the challenges faced while gathering data was the language barrier.

The study also highlighted that when the children were asked what they do not like about the place they live in, for Apia, it was danger, drunkenness, social isolation, arguments etc.

She also thanked the University of Otago for providing funds that made the research possible and also a heartfelt gratitude towards the children for their time and positive way to share their lives.

Dr. Niusulu also thanked the children's parents and community members who helped them.

"Family provides an important base for futures that often lie outside their current city and can be in a different country,” states the report’s findings. “Any planning for the future for Pacific children needs to recognize their strong family ties, their large extended family links that includes transnational links.

“Most importantly, children should be included in the process of planning for their future.” 

The report’s authors include Dr. Anita Latai Niusulu, Associate Professor Tuiloma Susana Taua’a and Ma’ilo Helen Tanielu of the N.U.S. Social Sciences and Geography Faculty. Representing the University of Otago were Professor Claire Freeman of the university’s School of Geography; Dr. Michelle Schaaf of the School of Maori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies; Dr. Christina Ergler of the School of Geography; and Mary Jane Kivalu of the School of Business. According to the report, the Pacific diaspora with populations moving from outer islands to the main island, from rural to urban areas as well as from the Islands to Pacific Rim countries such as New Zealand and Australia is an increasingly significant part of the children’s lives.

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