Fiji Time: 3:18 PM on Tuesday 23 December

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See to the children first, says priest

Thursday, December 11, 2008

ADDRESS the issue of poverty first before the issue of child labour says ECREA's Father Kevin Barr.

He said about 15 per cent of the country's population lived in more than 200 squatter settlements around the country, with 20 per cent in the Lami-Suva-Nausori corridor.

He said the ways to address the issue was to look into areas such as wages, decent affordable housing and for the rural areas improved infrastructure. "Over the years, growing poverty and inequality in Fiji has had serious implications for the children in terms of their parents to afford proper education in terms of quality and length of schooling and in terms of their whole quality of life," he said.

"Those who drop out early often find some form of work to survive to help their families survive.

"Many of those who drop out of school before completing their education in urban areas have tended to become shoeshine boys, bottle boys, wheelbarrow boys, assistant market vendors.

"Girls of course are often left as babysitters or to help with the cooking but sometimes to join the ranks of the street girls as prostitutes.

"Life on the street often leads to drugs, cigarettes and sniffing glue."

Fr Barr made his presentation on poverty in Fiji and its impact on children.