Six-year-old skips school to sell for his family

The number of street vendors selling goods on the streets of Salelologa during school hours remains constant.

As children across Samoa conclude their first term this week, one six-year-old student from Savai’i spent Tuesday afternoon braving the harsh weather to raise enough money to "help out his family" by street vending. 

In one hand, he carried a plastic bag filled with twisties, on sale for $2 tala, while in the other hand, he held a bucket of soft drink bottles he was selling for $2.50 each. 

The young vendor, without shoes, darted in between cars at the Salelologa wharf looking to make a sale. 

When asked why he was not in school, the six-year-old who claimed to be a student at Salelologa Primary school said he was sent by his mother to sell goods. 

"I went to school last week," he told the Samoa Observer. 

"But because we don't have enough money for our family, my mother sent me to sell goods so I can help her out." 

The student said he is the youngest of his parent's six children. 

"I am in Year 1 and I am not going to school this week since it's the last week of school for this term. 

"I usually do this (sell goods) after school hours. But I have decided to help my mother this week so we can earn more money. 

"Sometimes, my older siblings help us out and you can see them around this area selling things to earn money." 

When asked if he enjoyed what he was doing, the young boy smiled and nodded "yes." 

"I am learning to count money as well and it helps with my addition and subtraction," he said with a smile on his face. 

"I ask for help from my mother and other vendors when customers give me a $20 note because I am scared that I might get the change wrong. 

"But I love helping out my family and my mother loves it that she can rely on me."

The young boy said his mother was waiting for him on the other side of the wharf. 

Child vendors have been spotted more than once by the Samoa Observer, selling goods at Salelologa during school hours. 

Most of these vendors claim to be students at Salelologa Primary School. 

However the school principal for Salelologa Primary, Muagututi'a Tuitamai Lui-Posese denied these claims. 

"We have been informed before that some of our students are selling goods in town, during school hours," Muagututi'a told the Samoa Observer. 

"So we looked into it and were given the names of those students. However, we discovered that some of these kids are lying to people [saying] that they are students at Salelologa Primary. 

"Because the names that were brought to us are not found in our school roll this year."

However, Muagututi'a said that they do not take such a matter lightly. 

"As the principal for one of the biggest schools in Savai'i, I don't like this idea of sending kids to the streets during school hours. 

"It all falls on the parents and the guardians of these children. They can send them after school, but during school hours, that's a big no for me. 

"I have raised this issue before with our school committee and we have a strict policy. 

"If we ever find out that one or two of our students are selling goods in town during school hours, we will bring them in with their parents, and the school committee will see that they get fined for breaking the law. 

"Our school Committee and the elders of the village of Salelologa have come into an agreement that they will work closely to monitor our students, and make sure that they are all in school during school hours, and not out there in the sun and rain selling goods to help their families. 

"So we appreciate you bringing this issue again to our attention and we will see if these students are really from our school so we can do something about it.

"I have seen a lot of these children on the streets of Salelologa and I always feel sorry for them for being on the streets when they should be in school instead. 

"It's not good for them to be out there selling things."

In 2018 the Ministry of Women, Community, and Social Development announced a proposed Bill on the Rights of the Child, which would ban children under 14 years old from being street vendors. 

The proposed Bill is part of the Ministry’s plan to address core issues that deal directly with child labour and street vendors in Samoa. 

The United States Bureau of International Labour Affairs in 2018, named Samoa as one of the countries with some of the “worst forms of child labour."

In 2019, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child opposes child labour of every kind.

This was declared by Samoa's representative, Justice Vui Clarence Nelson, in response to pictures of child street vendors working late and sleeping rough on Apia's streets.

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