Stop exploiting our children

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Most of us would agree that Apia is a beautiful place. 

The wonderful thing about it is that it is slowly becoming the hub of international meetings, sporting events and all sorts of gatherings so that visitors to these shores will have lots of wonderful stories to tell when they return.

You only need to look at the Dear Tourist pages of this newspaper and you will be inspired by the many positive traits of Samoa that people find attractive.

This week, Apia is once more under the spotlight due to the visit by the Wales rugby team and a few other events that are happening. It is a wonderful time to Samoa.

But there is a downside which is becoming very annoying and unattractive on the streets of Apia – and in most places now. 

Whether we agree or disagree about the existence of poverty in Samoa, the growing number of young people hawking goods on the streets at all sorts of hours during day and night is disturbing.

It’s not just sad in our eyes; it’s the images that are being created in the minds of visitors and the impression they are taking back with them to their countries.

Indeed, using young children, who should be in school, or in bed late at night, to attract the sympathy of passers by, who are then forced to buy something from them or give them money, should be discouraged and frowned upon.

We say this because the reality is that everyday in this country, we are seeing so many young children taking to the streets to beg – and sell - for whatever they could get their hands on, to help their families survive. 

It’s hard to argue when they are doing it with their parents holding their hand after school. But that is not the problem.

The problem is street vendors running around and away from the Police during school hours. Then you have young children patronizing the popular eatery places at night where visitors and locals alike are hassled.

Over the years, this newspaper has been highlighting some pretty heart-breaking stories about these young people. 

Take a drive down to McDonald’s at night or outside those nightclubs and you will see what we are talking about.

Now, we are aware that sometimes desperation knows no end.

We are also aware that in Samoa, many children are brought up on the notion that a child can be blessed beyond measure purely from listening and obeying the parents. 

With that in mind, some children have voluntarily decided to stay home, instead of getting an education, so they can hit the streets to make whatever they can to help their parents. This is truly tragic. 

Let us remind here and now that it is the parents and caregivers’ responsibility to provide for these children. They should be given the opportunity to study and be nurtured until such a time when they can go out to find formal employment.

Another way to look at what’s happening today is that children are being exploited by their parents and others to make money. 

This is a sad, sad reality.

Surely this is not the kind of future Samoa wants.

We’ve said this time and time again. Our children should be treasured as the gifts that they are supposed to be. They do not deserve to be treated like slaves where parents and adults use other people’s sympathy to earn them sales.

The point is that on the streets of Apia and all over Samoa every day and every night, there are children being forced to sell and beg from total strangers, putting their lives at risk. This is not normal. 

What do you think?

Write and share your thoughts with us.

Have an awesome Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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