Chiefs called in to help prevent school violence in American Samoa | Pacific Beat

Chiefs called in to help prevent school violence in American Samoa

Chiefs called in to help prevent school violence in American Samoa

Updated 24 September 2013, 18:40 AEST

American Samoa has been shocked by the latest outbreak of youth violence.

Three students were hospitalised after their bus was stoned on the way home from a volleyball match.  

The attack has now led the Education Department to cancel all school sport for the time being.  

A community meeting was held in Pago Pago to discuss the violence.

Presenter:Bruce Hill

Speaker:Monica Miller, journalist, American Samoa

MILLER: Well it comes and goes and the latest spate was started last week which resulted in the cancellation of all sports. Initially it was going to be just volleyball, but now the Department of Education has cancelled all sports. As to the cause it's just a bunch of kids who have nothing better to do than to cause trouble and it's all because they didn't like their team not winning.
HILL: Well who does I suppose, but I was into sports when I was a kid but I don't remember throwing stones at a bus, that's taking it a bit far isn't it?
MILLER: Yes this was really shocking which is why the Governor has called on all of the community leaders, the village chiefs, the traditional leaders from the districts where these schools are located, and that meeting today essentially the Governor told the people assembled, the chiefs especially, that what has happened indicates that there's a breakdown in the enforcement of villages and that they should know who the culprits are and they should really tell them that they are the ones in charge, and this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated. Now essentially what came out of the meeting is there's no resolution, it was just an opportunity for the Governor to tell the Matais, the chiefs, that they should step up and do something with the perpetrators.
HILL: By doing something do we mean taking them round the back of the fale and giving them a bit of a thumping?
MILLER: Well the villagers do have their own punishment and usually for a village for example, which is one of the villages where the bus was going, one of the leading chiefs told me today, as a punishment usually 300 dollars for each offender. And they'll also have to feed the village and present traditional gifts, which really means cases of canned fish and a monetary fine.
HILL: So they really make it expensive for the kids who do this, teach them a real lesson, I mean there may be a bit of a thumping in their immediate future, but possibly it's going to cost them a bit and they'll think twice before doing this kind of thing again, and that'll be an example to the other kids as well I suppose?
MILLER: Yeah they really need to send a message to the families also that they have to look out for what their kids are doing. But the other thing is that there was a strong message for the department of education not to hold games in the evenings anymore. But the department of education says that any extra curricula activities have to be done after school, and really the school calendar is so full that they cannot avoid these games. So that's essentially what came out of the meeting today. The department of education director has said that hopefully within a week or two they would lift the ban, and they would look at involving the parent teacher associations, and the villagers, more of them they have.
HILL: This isn't just confined to American Samoa is it, this problem of school sport based violence. There have been a lot of problems in neighbouring Samoa. In Tonga recently they've actually decided they're going to look at the possibility of merging Tonga College and Tupou College because the two colleges had such rivalry that there were just regular almost riots whenever their sports teams played, and even when they weren't playing. Is there something deeper underlying this, that's actually got nothing to do with school sports and perhaps got everything to do with young people in different coloured uniforms just fighting?
MILLER: Well some of the views that were expressed that was kids have so much freedom these days that really they don't think that the grownups and the authorities will dish out any harsh penalties, and that this is a free for all. And there was a call for example to be more harsh with the punishments. Now of course the director of education says you can't really expel a kid because what's going to happen to that kid's future, and there's going to be more problems. As for the cause, well I think this goes back to when our people were warriors, and I think it all comes back in sports, although you'd think that in this day and age that they would learn how to handle their defeat in a manner that doesn't cause injuries or damage to government property, like a school bus. The chiefs  of our village told me also that if they find out that the problems were caused by outsiders, meaning foreigners, then those people will be deported.
HILL: I suppose back in the old days when people were warriors the penalties for losing a match were more than just a bit of humiliation, it was a bit more serious wasn't it?
MILLER: Yes we won't go into that though.
HILL: Fair enough.
MILLER: I think heads rolled.
HILL: And that's not a metaphor, yeah.

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