A FORMER shoeshine boy who spent two and a half years roaming the streets of Sura was named Dux of the Year at Lami High School yesterday.
Maikeli Pio Bale, 19, topped the school in four subjects Agriculture, English, Chemistry and Biology. He said he was motivated by his street struggles and encouraged by his grand-uncle, who adopted him when he was a child after his parents split up.
"I just thought of all the struggles I had while I was in that situation and I thought to myself that I had the potential to go in the opposite direction and achieve whatever I want," he said.
Having come from a broken family, Maikeli was moved from school to school and spent time in his village of Tukavesi at Buca Bay in Vanua Levu about three years ago. In 2000, he was beaten up by soldiers for breaking a curfew.
Two years later, he was pulled off the streets by his granduncle and made to sit for his intermediate exam which he passed. But he returned to the streets and started shining shoes for a living and sleeping rough.
Eventually, Maikeli said he learnt the error of his ways and, like a prodigal son, returned home, went back to school and started going to church regularly. "I still meet my street-kid friends in town once in a while. They try to influence me back but I just tell them to go back to school," he said.
Maikeli has now set his sights on becoming a primary school teacher. His granduncle, Saimoni Naqete, a carpenter by trade, was a proud and a shocked man yesterday. He said Maikeli never told him how well he was doing in school.
He said he never gave up hope on his adopted child, despite his waywardness. "He was a street kid on and off for two and a half years but even while he was like that, I used to keep advising him that it was not the right way to go,'' said Mr Naqete.
"Just looking at what he has achieved today is amazing because he never even told me how he had been doing in school. I came to the prize-giving not expecting to see him collect so many prizes."
Adapted from Fijitimes.com November 28th, 2007