Assistant Police Commissioner, Fauono Talalelei Tapu, says there is no law to stop young vendors from roaming the streets late at night.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer yesterday, he said the only law that exists is the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture’s Compulsory Education Act, which makes it illegal for children to be on the streets before 3pm.
“After that there is actually no law that forces young children to stop selling and be on the streets late at night,” Fauono told the Samoa Observer.
“What I usually do when I see them out late is I advice them to go home because it’s late but we cannot stop them because there is no law about it.
“The only way to solve it is to amend or change the law to address that issue.”
Fauono was responding to the latest questions following footage from a CCTV camera showing three young children beating up a homeless man in Apia.
The video has raised concerns about the behaviour of the street vendors. Many people have blamed the parents calling on the Police to charge them for allowing their children to be out that late.
Last year during a Forum, the Ombudsman’s Office reported that despite the existence of the Compulsory Education Act the problem continues with the growing number of young children selling wares on the streets during school hours.
Human Rights Attorney, Loukinikini Vili made the presentation and said, “Significant emotional and mental burden is placed upon children when they take on financial responsibilities for their families’ livelihood.”
The Ministry of Police, M.E.S.C and village representatives are members of the task force that monitor the compulsory education policy.
Other participants at the forum believed the Act is to be blamed for the inefficiencies in law enforcement.
A case about parents charged and convicted for failing in their parental duties of taking children to school was also discussed.
However, a few weeks after the convicted parents paid their fines and a stern warning from the Judge, they were back in their normal routine of sitting by the side while their children walk the street selling goods.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) conducted a survey in 2015 on 106 children below the age of 18 years old working as street vendors and some of the results from this survey was quite alarming.
• Children worked for at least 1 hour in the reference week in activities involving the production of goods and services with 75% of these workers dominated by female, says the report.
• Children in street vending, are used by businesses to sell their products while some children are seen scavenging on the streets.
• Some children live on the street during the weekdays but return home in the weekends. Five children were found living on the street with either homeless people or friends.
• The age group of these children ranges from 6 years old to 17 years old and most of them are living with their parents, which indicates that parents need to be educated themselves on the importance of education to their children.
• The hours children spent working the street is also alarming which is sometimes from the morning until midnight, which starts from 5.00pmto 8.00pm and 8.00pm to 12.00pm
The children informed ILO through the survey that they too have worst times working on the street which sometimes they feel unsafe or scared when they become in contact with the law.
Some of the worst fears they face is being bullied by older street vendors, people stealing their goods, and sometimes they beg for food at late hours.
Most of these street vendor children dream of going back to school and complete education and during this weeks’ forum, the participants tried to identify the “gap that needs to be addressed.”