Renew our commitment to our children
White Sunday, a national day of festivities dedicated to the children, is now upon us with thousands of young boys and girls in their best attire joining families and loved ones in worship to mark the day.
Celebrated on the second Sunday of October every year, the Lotu Tamaiti [children’s church service] will again take centre stage in hundreds of churches around the country. The festivities will see Samoa’s children wear their best attire and perform Bible readings and plays amongst various activities to mark the day.
But the celebration of White Sunday is also an opportunity for mothers and fathers to reflect on how the year has progressed and what is in store for their families as they count down to the end of another year with a new one around the corner.
Spare a thought for those children in Samoa, who for the first time in their lives will not have a parent to offer them comfort and support and be on hand to celebrate this occasion, their lives abruptly taken away by either tragedy or disease.
Such as 69-year-old Faiisealofa Asaasa of Poutasi Falealili, who succumbed to his injuries from the bus crash at Malifa early Monday morning and passed on leaving behind his seven children and 17 grandchildren, whose White Sunday celebrations were torn to shreds by the crash.
There are other families who’ve been suffering in silence for years, their pain unbearable and exacerbated by the shortcomings of law enforcement agencies, who after two-plus years of investigations cannot deliver justice to two restless parents who’ve yearned for closure following the death of their 18-year-old son Tuuau Faasavalu.
Even the political circus that the teenage’s death has created between Samoa’s two main political parties – after a man who claimed to be an eyewitness of a hit-and-run incident that allegedly killed him remains on the run but continues to be given air-time to air his conspiracies – borders on the immoral. The late Tuuau was a student at the National University of Samoa (NUS) only for his life to end just a month into his university studies.
There are many other children in Samoa, who’ve also had misfortunes in life, driven by the rising cost of living and forced out of necessity to assist their parents in putting food on the table for them and their younger siblings.
They too had to forgo the thrills of living their childhood, which would have been spent playing many long hours after classes with schoolmates or best friends, in exchange for a life of tough servitude as a child vendor selling outside Apia’s shops or markets and not going home until a sales is made. More often than not, spending long hours on the streets of Apia’s business district has become the norm for these street-savvy youngsters, who are only trying to survive.
Just 15 months ago, a rapid assessment survey of child vendors undertaken by the NUS revealed that they were getting sent out by their families to peddle on the streets at a much younger age. There was also a noted 27 per cent increase in child vendors since the last survey was done in 2015, confirming a very worrying trend in Samoa’s development as a nation.
Questions continued to get asked of the new ruling coalition and whether any policy interventions would be introduced to save Samoa’s most vulnerable population members – our children. There was an air of optimism when the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) introduced its game-changer policy known as the SAT$1 million District Development Project grant over two years ago.
But after three years of being in power in Samoa, how many of those publicly-funded grants overseen by the FAST administration are specifically earmarked for the betterment and the wellbeing of the country’s children, irrespective of each family’s socio-economic background and oblivious to whether their parents are titled or untitled?
Over two years ago there was a lot of talk about channelling portions of the district grants to school fees for children from poverty-stricken families so how many constituencies are implementing that today?
On today's White Sunday celebration, let’s be serious about the plight of our children, and make personal pledges and sacrifices to tackle the challenges that they face every day within and outside the home. Every day around Samoa our children are being let down, either by the shortcomings in our governing system or our own failures as parents. We can and must do better for their future.
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