PARENTS should face harsher penalties if they are found neglecting their children.
This is the belief of Waisea Volavola, one of the seven recipients of the 2012 Fiji Children's Awards.
Mr Volavola, 17, saved two children, aged two years and three, from their burning home at Korovuto, Nadi, on September 15.
The children's mother had locked them inside the house to go on a visitation around the neighbourhood.
The Form Five student of Swami Vivekananda College, originally from Vagadra in Nadroga, vividly remembers the tragedy, which still haunts him to this day.
He had just returned home from school and was relaxing in his room when he heard his sister screaming that the house next door was on fire.
"As soon as I heard her screaming I ran to the house and tried to open the door. It was locked. But I could hear children crying inside so I went to the side where the bedroom was and saw the two children sitting in the corner of the room, watching the fire engulf the room. They were crying. I tried to open the window but couldn't so I smashed the glass instead and helped them out. By then one of them had already sustained burns on her body," he said.
Mr Volavola said he was burdened by the fact that he could not save their one-year-old brother who was in the living room.
"A part of me is happy. I saved two of them but there's this sadness that I feel too. I wish I could have saved the other one."
Mr Volavola said he did what every other person would if they had found themselves in a similar situation.
"What I don't get is why they were left alone, locked in. I think parents should be very mindful of their actions, especially when it comes to handling their children and their safety. That fire shouldn't have happened, that child shouldn't have died.
"We read of so many children dying lately because they were left unattended. That is negligence on the part of the parents and guardians. The police should seriously consider charging parents with negligence because losing someone so young is not a funny matter. It is a sad day for everyone when we realise that an accident and death could have been avoided had someone been there or done something about it."
According to the National Fire Authority, out of the 80 structural fires recorded this year, seven children lost their lives in house fires.
These fires were caused by lit candles, children playing with matches and unattended cooking.
Mr Volavola also called on the people of Fiji to be good neighbours, regardless of colour, creed or religion. "We all need to look out for each other."