Friday, January 25, 2008


The start of a new academic year is upon us as thousands of students eagerly return to school.
But while most children were enjoying what the holidays had to offer, one lass was hard at work in the capital city.
Right on the busy thoroughfare of Scott Street, in central Suva, sat a keen young girl,
Leba Kelera Lusia Baleca, 10, worked hard to earn enough money to enable her to buy her stationery before school started yesterday.
Leba, who hails from Lomai Village, in Naitasiri, was selling vutu (Barringtonia nuts) to earn money.
The smiling elfin said she was employed by another woman who paid her to sell the nuts at the market.
She makes $100 a day but is paid $8 a day for her efforts.
Her father was employed as a security guard but now stays home while her mother sells juice at the market to help support them.
The family used to rent a house in Nakasi for $60 a month but they faced financial problems and the landlord ordered them out.
They then moved from Nakasi to Delainavesi.
Leba, who was a Class Four student of St Joseph the Worker Primary School at Nine Miles, in Nasinu, did not complete Class Four because after moving to Delainavesi, her family simply could afford to pay her bus fares.
She recalls when she was at school how her friends tease her because she was the only one in the class who had not paid her fees.
"It was not easy being teased by my friends, at times I just wished they would understand my situation," she said.
Going to school every day was like a nightmare she had to tolerate.
She said at times she went to school without lunch and was always grateful when her class teacher bought food for her.
"For four years I have been going to school bare foot and it's really bad on rainy days for I get cold," she said.
When her family moved to Delainavesi, the water meter to the home they moved into had been disconnected because the previous tenant had not paid the bill.
"We used to borrow water from our neighbour before we could earn enough to pay the bill so we could get water connected again.
"My father plants root crops and vegetables around our home for us and for it be sold at the market," she said.
"Being the third child in a family of four, Leba thought she should do something to help her parents.
With the financial difficulties the family faced, Leba's two older siblings were forced to drop out of school and get married at a young age, but they always support the family.
"At times I would ask my mother if I could go back to school for I do not want to end up like my older siblings," she said.
The family hopes a relief agency gives them help so Leba can attend a school in her new neighbourhood. She admits her greatest mentor was her father.
She recalls how her dad would come home late at night and leave very early in the morning to go to work, trying to make sure that he earned enough to support his family.
Her ambition is to be a primary school teacher.
"The reason why I chose this career is because I will be able to help unfortunate children just like me," she said.
She said her parents worked hard to earn enough so they could buy a kerosene stove as they were still cooking on open fires.
"Life is not easy but I'm thankful that my parents are working extra hard to give me a better life.
"My mother sells juice in the market for 20cents a cup and earns $45 a day but since there are a lot of rainy days she's only earning $10 a day. I'm happy that even though I'm not earning much I'm doing something worthwhile." Leba advises teenagers facing a similar tough life to never lose hope and to always try not to depend too much on one's parents.
"Do something worthwhile during school holidays instead of wasting money," she says.
She said children should be thankful for whatever their parents can afford to give them and to never take parents for granted.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online