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Samoa college given ultimatum

Friday 13 May 2016 | Published in Regional

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SAMOA – The future of Samoa’s 92-year-old Avele College remains uncertain with the government gives the Avele College Old Pupil Association (ACOPA) and teachers until next Monday to come up with an “undertaking” to find a solution to inter-school fighting.

Government will then make its final decision on the future of the school which has been at the centre of the inter-college violence.

The ultimatum follows a special meeting of Samoa’s cabinet on Thursday.

“The condition is for ACOPA to provide a written proposal and undertaking assuring the government that the bad things that had happened will never happen again till the end of time,” Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi told the media after the meeting.

The undertaking will not guarantee the reopening of the college that has been closed for over a week due to continued and intending violence involving the college students.

“The undertaking should be signed by members of ACOPA and teachers. But if we decide to reopen the college and should trouble brew again – then that’s it,” the prime minister said.

The decision also depends on a police report of the Facebook threat incident that warranted the closing of the school.

Recent threats by Avele College students toward other schools, students and teachers, has caused widespread panic and has seen the deployment of police officers in riot gear earlier this week.

“Cabinet informed them (ACOPA and PTA) of the hard decision Cabinet is facing based on the notion that nothing could be done to stop these fights,” said Tuilaepa.

Tuilaepa said cabinet is not worried if Avele College was to close permanently, as there are 20 government colleges around the country tht the students can attend rather than “coming all the way to Apia and away from their parental discipline”.

“Attending district colleges gives parents the chance to monitor their children’s behavior,” Tuilaepa said.

He believes that parents and children are attracted to Avele College because of the schools’ history and that maybe because a parent was a former student.

He acknowledged the parents that made an effort to be present at Thursday’s meeting. He said cabinet members, who are also parents, felt for them.

“But a just decision has to be made and that can only be done through the Holy Spirit,” he said.

Old Pupil Association president, Papali’i Tagaloatele Poloa, was emotional when he fronted the media after the meeting with cabinet.

Papali’i admitted that the problem originates from within the school.

“They say this has been an ongoing problem with the school.”

The government moved to closed down Avele College after threats that were made on a Facebook page belonging to an Avele student urging students to violence by using knives and Molotov cocktails.

According to the post the ninth and tenth graders were to bring with them knives or broken glass to stab the students from the other schools – and the writer urged Avele students to stab anyone from the other schools, including the girls and also the teachers.

Students were told not to beat up only the male students, but also the females and the teachers.

Papali’i said the “note posted on Facebook was only a joke, which was picked up by some students, and the cause of the fights.”

“Avele was involved in some troubles in the past but they never intended to commit any senseless actions,” said Papali’i.

The note posted on Facebook was treated as a threat by the police, due to its threatening contents.

Asked if the note reflects on the lack of discipline in the school, Papali’i said “no”.

He said the association and parents will meet to discuss their plan of action in order to deliver what has been required by cabinet so they can present their undertaking by next Monday.

The Principal of Avele College, Matafeo Reupena Matafeo, blamed social media for the escalating problem of inter school violence. “The main cause is social media.”

Maluafou Principal, Lasi Tavae, supported Matafeo. “It’s a sickness and we are trying to find a cure to it,” she said

Earlier this week Avele College and Maluafou College reconciled, after Friday’s brawl, which left members of the public nearby shaken, according to Samoa Observer.

Avele Head boy, Mervyn Teueli, told the Samoa Observer that there will be no more fights. “This ends today,” he said.

Falaniko Milovale of Maluafou College during the ava ceremony apologised to the director the Department of Education, the school principals, and all the teachers.

“Today is the end of this violence, Avele we are one, we are children of God,” said Milovale.

- PNC sources