STREET KIDS GROWING SOCIAL PROBLEM IN FIJI

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By Robert Matau

SUVA, Fiji (Oct. 23, 2002 - The Fiji Times/PINA Nius Online)---A social worker who helps street kids in Suva says unless poverty and its causes are eradicated, Fiji may face similar problems to countries such as Brazil.

Sairusi Taganeniwai, who has just returned from a course in rescue and restoration of street children in Brazil, said Brazil was now trying to address its social problems. But it was too late as the problem was too widespread.

"In Brazil, there are 14 million street kids alone," he said.

"There are kids who live in rubbish dumps using cartons and other pieces of rubbish as their bedding.

"In my course, we were taught how to rescue those people from poverty and restore them to normal society."

Taganeniwai said the recipe for disaster in those countries was greed, corruption and injustice.

"If you have these things in society, you are inviting economic and social problems similar to Brazil," he said.

Taganeniwai said the Fiji Government should identify property where it could house these street kids and decide how to give them a decent upbringing.

"This would give them some sense of stability and make them responsible for their home," he said.

"If Greenpeace can do it for the environment, why can’t we have NGO’s and social groups who lobby intensely for poor people."

In an editorial comment, The Fiji Times asked:

"Could it happen here? It is already happening here. The streets of our cities, in particular Suva, display a growing and disturbing trend.

"Anyone who has walked in the centre of the city after dark will testify to the legions of young children, some obviously less than 10 years old, pestering anyone who passes for kerekere or worse.

"These are the truly dispossessed. Lacking access to parental care, schooling, a clean dry lodging, they survive on their wits at the mercy of those who like to use and abuse them.

""The police do their best. But the basic fact is that there is no place for these children to go.

"Some end up in jail for a range of offences from drugs to theft - but the prison system cannot help them either.

"Those children go to jail as apprentice criminals and emerge as honours graduates from the school of advanced felony.

"They need education, a sense of belonging and some substitute for a family’s care -- not a spell behind bars.

"And as Mr Taganeniwai points out, a major contributing factor to their plight is the rise of greed and corruption in our national life.

"It is a sickness that is out of control.

"Let the powers that be come out from behind the tinted windows of their ratumobiles and take a night walk through Suva.

"Whether it can open their eyes, we cannot tell.

"But a society that ignores those children or pretends that nothing can be done for them is a society in decay."

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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