Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Community Justice

One of the most interesting, admirable and crazy things about Samoa, is the village justice. There are police here but almost everything is handled at the village level by the council of Matai, which are chiefs. Also nothing is handled concerning individuals. If you rob a store your whole family is punished not you individually. Punishments usually consist of a fine anyway from a hundred tala to the entire family’s possessions. In very severe cases there is village banishment as well. Recently I had one of my year seven boys come into libarary when I was alone and say some very inappropriate things to me then even go so far as to try to touch me. I was caught completely off guard, a student would never do this to a Samoan teacher and in a culture were elder’s authority is so absolute this students actions are unthinkable. I told my teachers and they immediately dismissed the other student and called the village elders. Within fifteen minutes the elders were at the school as well as the student’s mother. There was a lot of apologizing and speeches. The matai apologized to me on behalf of the child as well as the village. Then the mother got on her knees and gave a very teary apology. Keep in mind I am pretty much steadily leaking through this myself. There was a lot of talk about the severity of what had happened and the disrespect that had been shown to me. They feared that I would report the incident and the school would have to be closed. I assured them that I would not and that I accept their apology as well as that of the mother. I told them that it is one incident by one very young misguided boy and it didn’t change my love for the village and the children. This was all repeated several time with a lot of prayer in between. Then when everyone’s tears were dried, including my principal because she felt she was at fault for not protecting me better, we were served ice-cream.  I thought this is where it would end but boy was I mistaken. They then went and had a whole big matai meeting to decide a punishment for the family. I then was called to the pastor’s house so they could apologize and we could pray about it. The next day all the children looked at me with such pity in their eyes and asked over and over if I was ok. It has also now been the topic of three assemblies, one to discuss respect, one to tell the children to stop talking about it, and the third to discuss the new rules surround me, such as no one is allowed in the library. Also I have had seven texts and one stranger on a bus expressing concern and apology. At the end of the day all is well. I am trying to reassure everyone with words and smiles that I really am fine and the family has received their punishment. Hopefully the drama will die down soon and another event will occupy this small village

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