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June 28, 2022

A Child’s Life On The Street

While school children are enjoying their term break in their homes, many others are hard at work to make extra cash before the school resumes next week.

Our Lae news crew caught up with a grade two student, Toto Unus, as he collected empty containers to sell.


This story gives a glimpse into the plights of children who are fending for themselves. Toto Unus is one of them.


He is in grade two at one of the schools on the outer suburbs of Lae city. This morning, he came into the city, to collect empty bottle containers, to sell to recyclers.


He appeared relatively calm and seemed happy with what he was doing. He says he aims to collect at least fifty empty bottle containers today, which will fetch him ten kina at the end of the day.


“For fifty empty containers, I earn K10”, Toto said.


His story only gives you a picture of what’s happening on the streets in urban townships, almost everywhere in Papua New Guinea.


He is streetwise, yet doesn’t care about the politics of Waigani, or the policies that are supposed to be of benefit to him. All he knows is, that he has to help his mother and father, take care of his family.


“My father works in a company in the city, and my mother is just a house keeper”, Toto said.


In the desperation of urban life, roles are being reversed. Increasingly, children are expected to care for the family.


But it comes from a bigger problem, a problem that extends to broken families, lack of employment opportunities, and the extremely high cost of living in the city.


Last month, we spoke to Benson Hahambu, a project coordinator with Save The Children Inc., an international non-government organization that tries to address the plight of children like Toto.


“There are a lot of street children on the streets, and we are trying to establish the causes and find solution to problem”, Mr. Hahambu said.


By the end of the day, Toto would make about ten kina, he says. And before classes resumes next week, he says he aims to make enough money to give to his mother, while he keeps the rest for his own spending.


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