Soon to be an octogenarian Maria cleaning around university campus


HER face is a familiar one at the University of PNG campus.
Maria Riwa, 79, is one of the cleaners at the university.
Many of the girls living in the Tuluan and Luavi dormitories on campus do not her name, or where she is from.
They only call her Mama. She sells buai to them.
Maria is a mother of five from Koroba-Kopiago in Hela.
She has been a cleaner in Port Moresby for 20 years.
Maria cannot remember what year she left Hela to come to Port Moresby. All she can say is that she has been living in Port Moresby for more than 40 years.
She was brought to Moresby by her eldest son to look after his children.
He was then a teacher at Coronation Primary School. He is currently unemployed.
She would have still be living in the village had it not been for her son’s request. She was quite comfortable living the simple life in the village.
She also cannot remember when her husband died. She had to tend to the family garden by herself after he had gone to provide food for the family.
She loves her work as a cleaner and plans to continue working as a cleaner until she can no longer continue.
She never received any formal education in school because her dad believed that girls should not be attending school. So she totally missed out because of that.
The only education she received was the training she underwent to become a cleaner. Maria recalls being was trained as a cleaner at a center in Waigani.
She is skilled and good at her work and enjoys what she does every day. Before she started working at UPNG as a cleaner, she was employed by the city authority to clean around Erima in Port Moresby for 12 years. She was paid K500 a fortnight.
Then UPNG offered her a job although with a much lesser pay of K300 a fortnight.
She accepted it and is still at it today. She supports her children who are currently unemployed. She also has grandchildren.
She supplements her fortnightly pay with the income she earns from selling buai to mostly university students. Some of the buai she buys are bad. So she loses money that way, apart from the fact that she chews buai too which eats into her revenue.
She knows she is getting on in years and will be joining the octagarians soon.
But she will continue cleaning as long as she can. Right now, age is only a number to Maria, the village girl from Hela.

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