NUKU‘ALOFA – Police in Tonga are trying to develop new ways to end the fighting between groups of students from different high schools.
Police say if fighting between the schools does not end, this year’s intercollegiate sports competition will be cancelled.
In the most recent violence at the weekend, involving students and ex-students of Tonga College and Liahona High School, a bus and a police car were damaged.
Students have been arrested and are facing charges for causing damage to public property.
Police say there have been clashes each weekend since school resumed this year.
The deputy police commissioner, Salote Tonga, has told Radio Tonga that if the violence does not stop police will push for the colleges’ sport competition to be cancelled because it would not be safe to stage it.
She says these brawls are caused by just a few but all schools in Tonga will bear the brunt.
Tonga’s acting police superintendent Atunaisa Taumoepeau says there are two schools that have had a strong rivalry for the last 100 years – Tonga College and Tupou College. But nowadays those two schools have a very good relationship.
He says in the last ten years the problem has been between Liahona High School and Tonga College and police are trying to figure out strategies to stop the persistent clashes.
“It involves ex-students who have studied at Tonga College and moved to Liahona High School and even students moving from Liahona to Tonga College. It is the things behind that that we are trying to figure out why it is going on.”
Tonga police have tried initiatives such as a ‘Music for Peace’ programme which had some success but hasn’t solved the problem.
“What we are now targeting is the students from form one, form two, form three.
“We are encouraging police to go to schools every week and talk about what are the things that may affect their studies and even when they want to go to New Zealand or Australia the police won’t issue them a police clearance – things like that. We have to tell them that.
“And even a programme with the guardians and the parents and with the teachers as well.
“Bringing the prefects from Tonga College and Liahona High School at the weekend and they hang around, looking for perpetrators, telling us whether they are students or not.
“We developed that Music for Peace which will continue this year, but we have another project going on the weekend, creating other activities rather than being confined to the week days, the school days.
“We thought of doing something for the community, including those people that we apprehended and go to the actual community and for the parents as well of the people there.”
Taumoepeau agrees it is an isssue the whole community has got to solve.
“We have a lot of stakeholders in this – from the church, the government, the school and the parents. Police are like co-ordinators here but you need everybody involved – that is the only way to solve these things.