Over 30 students at Malapoa College have been suspended for drinking alcohol at Eton beach over the weekend.
Malapoa College Principal, Shem Simon, told Buzz FM 96.3 that the incident that took place on Saturday is not something that reflects well on the school’s image after photos of the inebriated students flooded social media but his main concern is the safety of the students.
Principal Simon says there were two groups of Year 9 to Year 13 students who departed to Eton on buses which they arranged for themselves.
He says some of the students involved were boarders whom he had advised to remain in school as they were having a study preparation workshop to help the students in time management.
The students disobeyed the principal’s advice and some snuck out while others applied for Saturday leave to go to church.
Many were seen marching out of the school grounds with their Bibles but they all ended up getting drunk at Eton.
While picnicking there, what started off as a fun day out got nasty as the alcohol started to kick in.
This resulted in several brawls taking place on the beach in front of other members of the public and Eton villagers.
A villager recognized that they were Malapoa College students and contacted the school. Principal Simon drove there immediately and another teacher organized a bus to pick up the students.
The principal says the villager who called him said the students were fighting so he got worried and arranged for the ProMedical ambulance to follow them to Eton.
Fortunately, a few of the students only had minor scratches and bruises from fighting but there were no serious injuries.
One student passed out on the dry creek bed away from the crowd in the bushes and was found by the paramedics in time.
Mr Simon and the other teacher who travelled to Eton by bus transported the students back to Port Vila and dropped them off at their individual homes.
The principal says when he drove out to Eton, his intention was to bring the students back safely and not to punish them.
He says he was concerned about their safety as Eton is far from town and anything could have happened to them, especially under the influence of alcohol.
As some of the students involved are boarders, he was inevitably worried about the school being blamed for the incident if anything drastic had taken place.
Principal Simon says incidents such as this are likely due to the situation in which a lot of these students face at home where they are exposed to a lot of negative aspects of life because education starts at home.
Quite a lot of the students involved also come from broken or single parent homes, Principal Simon said today the norms of behaviour in the society have changed a lot since the 80s and 90s and values like respect have disappeared.
The school has a counselling service which it offers to its students however there are limits as to how far one can counsel a student.
Principal Simon explained that at the moment the suspension of the students is being handled on an individual case by case basis.
He says some of the students involved are repeat offenders and some have just returned from suspension.
Therefore, it is likely that some may not return to the college.
Arrangements are being made with other schools for those who won’t be returning to be transferred to in order to sit their final exams.
The final decision is yet to be made by the school board and may involve a few high-ranking staff of the Department of Education.