The Police have issued a stern warning to teachers as the academic year gets underway.
“Assault is assault and there is no other way to look at it. The Police does not tolerate nor condone this type of behaviour, against our children.”
The warning came from Police Senior Sergeant Samia Iosua Samia who addressed Principals and teachers during the Teachers Conference. He told them that any teacher who is caught would be prosecuted.
“This practice is prohibited under the Crimes Act,” he said.
“Although this was the general practice in the past where teachers hit students, this is now disallowed under the law.
“Under the Crimes Act assault it is defined as touching, raping, hitting, collaring, slapping, pushing, throwing an object and kicking.”
Teachers, he said, need to find other methods of disciplining students. He pointed out that teachers should have special skills such as “patience and love” for the students.
He also called on the teachers to utilise the principles of Christianity to empower them to have self-control to deal with any given situation.
“Teachers should be able to handle any situation that arises and not lean on disciplinary measures always when encountering an issue that calls for the need to discipline a student,” he said.
“Being a teacher means that you are well equipped mentally to deal with any issue and it is a gift that only teachers possess.”
Senior Sergeant Samia said that teachers who resort only to violence show they lack patience and preparations.
“Some teachers have issues at home and they tend to bring them to school,” he said. “I urge you to get a hold of yourself. You as a teacher must check yourself before entering the classroom.”
But the message from the Police did not just target teachers.
Senior Sergeant Samia also called on Principals and teachers to report students who are not attending schools.
“Under the law, the Police can file criminal charges against a parent who do not put their children to school,” he said.
He added that everyone – teachers and parents – should work together to improve education in Samoa.
The topic of corporal punishment is a sensitive topic.
Last year, the Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, Loau Keneti Sio, revealed that the government could legislate corporal punishment in a bid to address inter-school fights.
At the time, Minister Loau said that he accepts that it is an extreme step but he said nothing has been finalised. What is certain though is the urgent need to address the issue of fights among students of different schools.
“As you know, back in the days when corporal punishment was allowed, things were very different,” he said.
“Even in the Bible, there are multiple verses that talk about corporal punishment and how a child should be disciplined.”
Loau said that something about “the cane” made a difference with a lot of leaders who grew up under the system.
“It was painful but look at most of them now. They are very successful but that was due to the discipline.”
Loau said the government is alarmed by the ongoing fighting in public places – as well as other problems.
“We are looking at ways that we can solve the problem because we cannot leave the problem like this otherwise it will get bigger and then we won’t be able to solve it.”
The Minister confirmed that the Office of the Attorney General and the relevant government bodies have been informed and they are looking at it.
It’s not an easy matter, he added.
“We also have to look on the other side because we have already signed international conventions which are against it. So we have asked the Attorney General’s Office to look into the matter and provide us with an opinion on whether the government should go ahead or not.”
Personally, the Minister said he sees corporal as part of the solution. Discipline and tough Samoan love has always worked and he does not see why it shouldn’t work again.
“As the Minister of Education, we have to find ways to solve this problem,” he said. “The A.G’s Office is also looking at the teachers’ side and the affect on them as well as the students.”
Asked if he prescribes to some thoughts that the push for child’s rights is responsible for a lot of these problems, he said no.
“I don’t think it’s because of that because everyone has a right and that goes for the children as well,” he said.
“But I believe charity begins at home. If your parents bring you up well, that sets you up for what’s to follow.
“The most important part is the parents have to do their part because as we always hear the parents are the first teachers of any child.
“They have to play their part and then the teacher will do their part when the child arrives at school.”