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Education Summit Commission calling for realistic review of our traditional attitudes

"There is a suggestion that the territory consider and enact laws where the burden and cost of the children breaking the laws and misbehaving in the schoolyard be placed directly on their parents.”  This was the Education Summit Commission's view laid out in a report to Governor Lolo following the Education Summit last year.


The Education Commission pointed out that detailed education of parents on how to raise their children is not part of the Samoan culture. "It has always been taken for granted, on the basis that ‘O tama a tagata e fafaga i upu ma tala’ (sons of men are fed with words and good advice)." The Commission stated that there is “a great and urgent need for parental education and law enforcement.”


According to the report on Student Behavior, the Commission said they did not have sufficient time to present all the information they viewed regarding student involvement in underage drinking, teenage pregnancy, family violence, child abuse and teenage criminality.


The Commission was referring to the DOE Student Behavior Survey for 2012- 2013, wherein all six public high schools were surveyed, with information gleaned from 3,142 high school students; and in the elementary division, 1,840 students from 22 elementary public schools, grades 6-8 participated.


The said survey was, however, discussed during the Two Samoa’s health summit last year on the challenges faced by non-communicable diseases, and was noted to reveal alarming data regarding students in high school and elementary school who are smoking, drinking and using drugs.


Data regarding sexual behavior, diet and physical activity was also revealed as a result of the latest survey, taken in February and March this year for students in American Samoa. All surveys conducted were answered anonymously.


Magadalene Augafa-Leauanae a Department of Education Science and Health Coordinator who is a member of the NCD Coalition explained during her presentation that a youth Risk Behavior Survey was conducted in 2013 by the DOE. For high school students in public schools, a total of 19.3% of students had smoked cigarettes while 24.2% students drank; also 14.3% of students had smoked marijuana. Interestingly 35.1% of high school students in public school reported having had sexual intercourse.


The survey revealed that 32.2% of students had been the passenger of a drunk driver, while 24.1% students admitted they carried weapons and 19.4% of students had attempted to commit suicide.


For students in elementary public schools_, namely those in grades 6-8,  9% of them have smoked a cigarette, 14.1 have consumed alcohol while 17.6% of students reported riding in a car driven by a drunk driver.  26.9% of students said they have carried weapons and 15.9% of students reported an attempt to commit suicide. 


The Commission noted the statistics were disheartening and said these behaviors affect the student’s ability to learn, and can be controlled with the assistance of parents. The Commission however did report on the statistics of teenage pregnancies from the Tafeta Clinic, which showed that 136 teenage girls ages 15-19 had babies at the hospital in 2012 and these figures excluded babies born to unmarried mothers who barely passed their teens, or to young mothers sent away when their pregnancy was discovered.


"We raise the issue here not for its moral implications or as a social issue, but to direct your attention and that of your planners to the effect of these numbers on the future school population, because these babies will start entering the system five years from now.”


“This underlines the critical need for effective programs to curb the spurt of teenage pregnancies and the unwanted pregnancies of young women in general.”


The report goes on to say, “ this is a matter of emergency, immediately calling for a realistic review of our traditional attitudes towards this issue." 


Those on the Education Commission are, Pulefa’asisina Tuiasosopo, Fofo Sunia, Dr Sili Sataua Kerisiano, Father Timu Iosefo, Dr Uiagalelei Lealofi and Tapa’au Dr Dan Aga.