Ta’ele’s life on the street

By Ilia L. Likou ,

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Supporting family: Ta’ele Iulai

Supporting family: Ta’ele Iulai

Twelve year old, Taele Iulai is a child vendor.

But perhaps he is one of the luckier ones who also attends school and confines selling to after  school hours.

“I am the oldest of six brothers and sisters,” he told the Samoa Observer yesterday.

“This is what I do every day, and the money I earn from selling chips really helps my family.

“I’m not tired to be on the street, I like it here, and as you can see, there are many child vendors here.

“I think the only problems are when other child vendors fight against each other.

“So I always run away from them - that is what I was told to do by my father, to stay away from trouble.

“Yes ... always stay out of trouble.

Taele said that his father is the sole breadwinner of the family.

“He works at one of the shops in town.

“He told me that what I am doing now, is going to help my family, especially my youngest siblings.

Taele attends Toamua Primary School.

“I’m in Year 6 and my favourite subjects are English and Samoan.

“I don’t want to quit school but I want to continue with school while still selling on the streets as well.

“After school every day, I sell chips.

“I always earn about $16 per day or more, and the money buys us sugar and rice for dinner and also my lunch at school.

Taele wants to become a teacher in the future.

“That’s my dream, I want to be someone who helps to teach children like my teacher is doing right now. 

Last week, in a Report of the Rapid Assessment of Children Working on the Streets in Apia, Samoa, financial problems we said to be responsible for a growing number of children ending up on the streets of Apia instead of going to school. 

Some of these children beg, sell drugs and some face the risk of being engaged in commercial, sexual exploitation.

Those were some of the conclusions drawn. 

The report was compiled by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour (M.C.I.L.) with the International Labour Organisation (I.L.O.). 

“There are many factors that lead to children entering the world of work,” the report read. 

“However, the research has found that a significant number of street children faced financial problems and difficulties that pushed them to work on the street. Most of the children were able to get work through their parents or through their friends and other children living in the same community.”

According to the report, children working on the streets of Apia are clearly visible. 

“Children as young as seven can be seen selling with an adult and in many cases it is their mother or relative that oversees them,” the report reads. 

“A number of children have never been to school while a good number are drop outs. Majority of these children live with their parents (or at least one of them) and live in both rural and urban settlements. 

“The youngest child interviewed while working on the street was a seven year old and is currently not attending school.

“Although the majority of the children knew how to write their name and read a simple sentence, this is no guarantee that this level of literacy is sufficient for any child in attaining decent work in the future.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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