He walked between buses and taxis; he stopped briefly waiting for the red light to change, holding a box of biscuits on his left arm, and calling on passengers to buy them from him. His name, he said, is Moses Tokpa and he is 13.
As the red light changed to green and buses and taxis raced along, he moved swiftly between them not worried about any danger that could befall him. There were several boys and girls of the same age and even younger who moved about between taxis and buses.
They are among the hundreds who are bread winners for their parents; some are in schools while thousands of other children have never seen the class rooms.
However, 13-year-old Tokpa insisted its time he returns to school, saying, “I am not a bread winner at my age.”
In an interview with the Daily Observer Monday, March 31st in Monrovia, Moses Tokpa said: “I live with my mother’s best friend who took me from Lofa to send me to school in Monrovia. I was 10 years old when I started selling for her.”
He said he began to sell cold water, chewing gum and peppermint and brought LD$200 home every day.
“My aunt said I would start school the following year if I made plenty money,” he explained. And three years later, he is still selling and running between taxis and buses, unable to make “plenty money,” to enable him to go school.
Tokpa said his dream “Is to become a Civil Engineer” and noted that dream could happen, “only when I go to school.”
“I’m 14 years old, my parents are dead and I live with my Uncle who lost his wife few years ago. I am the only person who is helping him with the house work and sell so that we can get our daily bread,” Rose Harrison of Chicken Soup Factory explained.
Rose is a 4th grade student attending the House of Peace School in Gardnerville, and she sells sachets of cold water every day in Monrovia to pay her uncle’s house rent and feeding.
She explained, “I starts selling at 1pm to 9pm every day before going home, sometimes I make about LD$250-400. Selling is very good but I want to be with my friends at home and school during classes. I hardly study my lessons; this caused me to fail in some of my subjects in school.”
“I really want something be done about my case because am tired but can’t complain each time I do my Uncle gets angry and promises not to send me to school again I know God will make a way for me one day,” Rose said in tears.
Rose told our reporter that her dream is to become a medical doctor and save the lives of the Liberian people.
Efforts to reach the parents of these kids were not successful due to the refusal of the kids as “there would be serious problems for them at home.”
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf some years back made a declaration that she would significantly clear children off the streets by sparing them the burden of child labor and abuse. Apparently, there was lack of political will in implementing her plan.
The Liberian Leader declared that “No child of school-going age should sell in the street during school hours. If they are caught, they will be arrested and have their goods seized and their parents or guardians will be arrested and prosecuted.”
In spite of this mandate given by President Sirleaf, unfortunately, there is no implementation backing these words as the country gets harder from day to day.
Many parents claim that there are not enough schools to host these children; and not enough jobs enabling parents to raise enough money to pay tuition.