NEWS

Back In Class After Life On The Streets

It wasn’t easy. Some schools rejected them because they were stereotyped as “street kids”. Mr Waqetia, also a Salvation Army social worker, took them under his wings after he found them on the streets of Suva.
15 Feb 2020 09:54
Back In Class After Life On The Streets
From left: Navitalai Turaganikeli in Year 6, Semi Ledua in Year 6, Jolame Nawaqatabu in Year 8, Ilaija Gaunavou in Year 7 with their class teachers, Makareta Takalaivuna and Lario Nainima, at Davuilevu Methodist School on February 14, 2020. Photos: Ronald Kumar

For two years they roamed the streets of Suva.

Today five “street kids” are at school – thanks to taxi driver Amani Waqetia, once a “street kid”, who fought hard to enrol four of them at Davuilevu Methodist Primary School and the fifth at the secondary school.

It wasn’t easy. Some schools rejected them because they were stereotyped as “street kids”.  Mr Waqetia, also a Salvation Army social worker, took them under his wings after he found them on the streets of Suva.

As a young lad, he spent seven years of his own life on the streets of Suva. So he knew exactly what they were going through when he met them last year.

Navitalai Turaganikeli and Semi Ledua are in Year 6, Jolame Nawaqatabu is in Year 8, Ilaija Gaunavou in Year 7 and Simeli Fatiaki is in Year 9 at Davuilevu Methodist Secondary School.

“These boys lived on the streets for almost two years and were involved in most types of crime,” he said.

“I know what people go through when they end up on the streets and the only thing they need, which I am at the moment trying to provide to the young boys, is a supportive environment.”

Mr Waqetia said he too came from a broken family.

“I was on the streets for seven years, I had an encounter with my saviour, Jesus Christ, and it changed my life,” confessed Mr Waqetia.

“I did not complete my education and these difficult circumstances had led me to help young people who live on the streets, to achieve something bigger in life,” he said.

Mr Waqetia recognised that the boys wanted a place they could call home, where they would be loved and have an opportunity to complete their education.

Amani Waqetia.

Amani Waqetia.

The boys are now part of his family comprising his wife, 25-year-old son and his fiancee.

Mr Waqetia said he had a hard time getting the boys’ birth certificates because he was not their legal guardian. Then getting them into schools was even harder.

Mr Waqetia said some schools did not want to accept the boys.

After several visits to the Ministry of Education, the ministry found the schools for them.

He said there was a lack of love and support given to young people, especially, when they had been struggling in the streets for a long time.

“Stories about their struggles do not come out in the first encounter and I am happy that the boys opened up their stories with me,” Mr Waqetia said.

The parents of these children are grateful to what Mr Waqetia had done for them.

Jolame Nawaqatabu’s mother, Tarai Lawevuso, said she had seven children and life was always a struggle. The single mother said life had not been kind to her children either.

She said despite her attempts to bring her son back home, Jolame remained on the streets, not wanting to return to the life of a broken family.

Similar stories were presented by other parents.

Mr Waqetia believes that with the proper spiritual guidance, a little grace from God and a lot of love from their new found family, the five children would prove people wrong.

He also hoped that other people would open their hearts to these children as well.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

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