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Deo shoulders responsibility

Saturday, April 28, 2007

RONALD Deo is the youngest cane farmer at the age of 16 in the Naleba sector and is the sole bread winner for his family.

He buys food, pays the bill and school fees for his younger brother and sister. Ronald had to quit school last year after Form Four at Naleba College in Labasa to carry out his duties as the eldest of the family.

His father had fallen sick and could no longer work on the farm.

Even though many people condemn his decision or that of his parents in allowing him to work at such an age to support his family, Ronald is not bothered about their views.

That is because he believes he has a task to help his parents who have been sick.

"I know some people will look at my situation as child labour but it does not matter to me because I have a task to fulfil and that is to look after my family," he said.

"I have a younger brother and sister in primary school and because my parents are sickly, who else will look after them or pay their school fees?".

Ronald said that because he was the eldest child in the family, it was only right for him to carry out the duty of looking after his family.

"As the eldest, I believe the responsibility falls on me. There may be some other kind of assistance such as the Social Welfare and civil societies which can help me with my situation but what guarantee is there that these groups will continue to help us in the future.

"That is why I have taken this step and made the decision to quit school and look after my family because it is my task in life as I am the eldest. This way, I can continue to help my family."

Ronald started his career as a farmer this year and said he was used to the hard work because since the age of six his father had always taken him to the farm to work and learn to plant crops. "Doing farm work is not difficult at all because it is something I have always done since a small boy, waking up early with my father to go to the farm at about 5am," he said.

That is exactly what Ronald is doing today.

He starts a normal working day at 5am on the farm and returns home at 10am for his morning break.

"When I get home, my breakfast is ready, prepared by my mum and after having a good breakfast, I take a short break and rest before working on my vegetable garden.

"I plant vegetables to help feed my family and even though I earn good money from the farm business, I still depend on the garden crops and vegetables because it helps save money."

Ronald said saving money from his cane earnings had helped him pay his younger brother's and sister's school fees at Naleba Indian Primary School.

"It has also helped me provide for my parents' bus fare to the hospital for their clinic and buy their medicines from the pharmacies.

"So, even though some might label my situation as child labour, it is at least feeding my family and providing our daily basic needs," Ronald said.

As a farmer, he also has big plans to succeed outside the field and has started taking computer classes at a computer school in Labasa. He received a certificate from the Fiji Sugar Corporation this week for passing a basic computer course.

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