Am. Samoa Community Members Discuss Sports Violence

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DOE suspended all high school sports following stoning of bus

By Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Sept. 24, 2013) – In a meeting called by American Samoa Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga with traditional, government and church leaders, along with high school officials, NGOs, PTA members and parents to discuss ways to resolve the continuous outbreak of sports-related violence between students and schools, focus was brought to bear on three areas of the community — church, parents and village councils. The meeting was held at the office of Samoan Affairs yesterday morning.

Last week Department of Education (DOE) Director Vaitinasa Salu Hunkin suspended all American Samoa High School Athletics Association (ASHSAA) sports following the stoning incident, which occurred immediately after a volleyball game at the Fagaitua High School gymnasium.

Church

Reverend Elder Siaosi Mageo did not mince words when he placed the blame squarely on parents for the actions of their kids in the recent outbreak of violence, the school bus stoning which resulted in student injuries last week.

Mageo, who is the Superintendent of the Assembly of God Church in the Territory, stated, "we must look as to why this has occurred, while others seek what the problem is, we must seek the "why" because I believe the problem is the parents, for not lecturing and talking to their children, who are enjoying too much freedom."

He further stated that parents lack the opportunity to speak to their children, they don’t teach their children what to do and what not to do. Mageo quoted the Bible stating the book of Proverbs says "teach your children in the way they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it."

The faifeau noted there’s a lack of leadership in families, and there’s also a lack of education. "Then fingers are pointed here and there — yet the reality is, this all comes down to parenting."

Mageo also pointed out that the church has a role in this, given that pastors and reverends must teach the truth about God’s word, yet some church leaders are not doing their job of teaching the Word within their denominations. "The faifeaus are being fed by the church, and they are fat."

Mageo also noted that sometimes the mother is on the east side of the island, while the father is on the west side and their children are roaming around on the road.

"Everything fails, but Jesus will never fail," he said, and went on to say that mothers are busy attending bingo.

"Look after your children," he said. "Only a cat's kittens are left scattered all over. When the mother is out to bingo, and her daughter goes to bingo, too — what happens? A small bingo is born, then it's in the newspaper, and it’s embarrassing."

In his closing remarks, Mageo stated that if the church leaders were not afraid to tell the truth as it is, the jails would be closed by now.

Village councils

Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga not only spoke about the violence problems faced by the schools but also pointed to the academic problems.

He noted students who complete high school are still taking remedial courses at American Samoa Community College (ASCC) and using up the resources that are meant for students who would be taking college courses, while other students are not fit to either take college courses or get a job.

"If students are educated, their futures are not at stake, yet nowadays a lot of students are not ready," Lolo stated.

The governor said everyone should take a stand and assist and not point fingers to one another on this issue. "It’s everyone’s job to make things right — the government, church, teachers and parents."

Lolo, in particular, pointed to the village councils as the leaders that should come down strong on these issues, because it is the village councils that lead families, and the village councils should handle them within the villages.

He stated police officers and firemen were only established at a later time, yet in the beginning, when there are problems it would be the village councils, village mayors, District Governors who would play a big role when it comes to incidents such as these.

The governor noted that’s why he opted to raise the salaries of District Governors, given they are the traditional leaders who play a vital role in the community.

Community solutions

The DOE Director, in her remarks, said the focus of this meeting was to find a "sustained community solution" to this outbreak of violence by students in the community.

Vaitinasa also told the crowd that the DOE sports competition should be held during the daytime and that students, parents and or community members responsible for injuries and damages incurred must be suspended/expelled and or punished by law respectively.

She further stated that high school sports will resume within a few weeks once these issues have been resolved legally and with the efforts of the community partnership to stop the violence. In addition, Vaitinasa said "it will allow everyone in our community time to reflect, and heal from this emotional event involving our children."

(The American Samoa High School Athletics Association had announced that all ASHSAA sports were canceled only for two weeks, but the DOE director said otherwise, noting certain issues must be resolved before sports events can resume. See story in Friday’s issue of Samoa News.)

The DOE director then stated that unfortunately most of the DOE administrators, teachers, students and parents who are proud of their schools, and who respect the laws and who take school and sports seriously, have to undergo these trying times while the DOE administration, ASHSAA Board, and government leaders develop a plan to resolve these issues caused by a few students and community members needing special attention and help.

In an email she sent to Samoa News over the weekend the DOE Director stated that as an educator, a mother and a member of this community, she believes these outbreaks of violence stem from a bigger problem in our community.

"The need to help our children learn values we hold so dear — values we hear so often in our homes, so often in church, so often from our lawmakers — these critical values include but are not limited to respecting authority, respecting laws, respecting property and especially respecting others in our community."

"The incident of pelting or fighting is only a manifestation of our failure to reemphasize these values in our community each day in our lives and in the lives of our children."

Deputy Commissioner Leiseau Laumoli stated that police officers are working to find those who stoned the school buses, the suspects involved, so they can charge the people who committed the crime.

He said police have been working non-stop, including over the past weekend searching for these students or adults involved.

Leiseau asked that anyone who has information on this matter to please contact the police.

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