Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Kuwait's Poor Children

December 10, 2013, 1:14 pm
By Ricky Laxa

You see them approach cars and offer to sell perfume sprays, pack of face towels, boxes of tissues and fun toys for kids. As young as six years old, these street children reflect the frustrations of not being able to sell their products at the end of the night; while remaining potential victims to road accidents and ensnared to commit aggravated crimes. The Times spoke to these children and, in return for purchasing their items, learned about their frustrations and simple wishes in life.
Musaad, who is ten years old, lives with his two brothers and four sisters in Andalus. His father died of cancer few years back and left them in the care of their mother. He stopped going to school last year, not because, the family could not afford to send him to school, but because they had no interest in academics. Musaad spends his time in the streets of Andalus, hangs out at friends’ houses and hardly eats in a day; not unless his friends would treat him to a sandwich or a meal.
Musaad lamented that his mother is often out of the house and stays with her aunt leaving them hungry and unattended. Musaad’s friends introduced him to man called Hamad, who distributes pirated CDs to sell in the Friday market, Musaad earns 250 fils for every 3 CDs he can sell and in between he steals from other shops in the same place.
Musaad sells whatever he steals outside the grounds of Friday market in order to avoid getting caught by the local authorities. Clad in dirty disdasha and worn out slippers, Musaad makes the Friday market his personal playground and moneyearning place. Similarly, Hamoud is twelve years old, and has never attended school; his mother and father have been divorced for the past five years.
Hamoud lives with his brother who is married and out of job. At an early age, Hamoud started working with his brother for a 100-fils shop in Rigga, he used to clean the shop before it opened and earned small amount of KD 75 in a month. This was sufficient for him to buy what he wanted and somehow, feed himself for a month. Their mother left him and his two brothers and sister to the custody of their father, who got re-married. For sometime Hamoud and his sister used to receive monthly financial support from their father but eventually, due to the influence of his stepmother, they were forced to live on their own and support themselves.
The monthly financial assistance stopped and their father refused to see them. Hamoud no longer works for the 100-fils shop because he was accused of stealing things from the shop. Hamoud sighed that he did not steal anything but was wrongly accused by the owner of the shop.
Hamoud and his brother now peddle perfume sprays in Messilah and Salmiyah daily to earn small amount to support them. “At times I envy my friends for having a family to live with; I hope I still have my mother and father to provide support. Everyday is difficult for us, we have a six year old brother who often gets sick, I want to buy many things but I don’t have the money, people think that I beg in the street, they offer money but I give them perfume spray in exchange.
I never take money from people,” said Hamoud. Six years old Fadhel could be the youngest peddler one can see along the streets of Salmiyah. Fadhel used to accompany his brother in Souk Salmiyah to sell pirated CDs and videotapes and just like Musaad; they earn 250 fils for every 3 CDs they sell.
To add to the income, they would sell perfume sprays. Fadhel wishes to become a doctor someday and own his own play station. Fadhel hardly talked during his interview, but one can notice the hardships this kid is going though. When asked if he is not afraid of getting into accidents because of the rushing cars, Fahdel replied with a smile.
Fadhel, Musaad, and Hamoud are just among the increasing number of street children with no proper legal status in Kuwait. The heat of the sun, hunger, danger of being hit by cars, belittled, and the disappointment of not able to sell and earn at least a one dinar in a day, are just some of anguishes these kids go through every day.
“Blaming the parents for such irresponsible acts would not be enough; local authorities should somehow apprehend these parents for not meeting their duties,” said mother of five children Mariam Al- Khaldi.
“I believe because the parents marry at early age, education on parenthood is insufficient and traditional pre-arranged marriages are prevalent in the society. Statistics show that divorce cases have increased this year and would most likely increase the following year. Infidelity, domestic violence and lack of financial support are the common reasons why divorces happen in the country and in between such battle are the children who suffer.
Social welfare department, humane organizations and societies and local authorities should implement a revised set of laws to protect the rights of these children,” commented a psychotherapist. The two-hour interview concluded with The Times offering to take them home and, as promised, purchased the items they peddled. They got off from the car, bade goodbye and disappeared into the night.
What remained was stories of survival learned from these children. For every item bought from these children and given out to friends will be a reminiscing story about them that must be told and questions asked as to why there were poor children in such a rich country?

The story below ran in the Kuwait Times on October 15, 2014, and was followed up by a report (LINK HERE).  If the Government continues to create generations of hopeless, desperate people, it will only negatively affect Government and society later.  Why aren't they thinking??

Has there been any update to this story?

Related Stories:

Parents of 700 Bedoun kids Denied Education stage Sit-In
KUWAIT CITY, Oct 26: The parents of about 700 elementary Bedoun pupils, who were deprived of education due to non-availability of birth certificates or official documents required for registration in schools, organized a humanitarian protest inside the Ministry of Education premises on Sunday. Organizers of the protest disclosed the number of children deprived of their right to education will reach 3,000 if those in other levels were added to the elementary pupils.
They argued that education is not only a constitutional and legal right as stated in international charters, but it is also a humanitarian and religious right in line with Islamic tenets. They claimed whoever deprives children of the right to education is committing a crime.
According to member of Bedoun Elementary Education (Katatib) Ahmad Al-Khalifi, the Central System for Remedying Status of Illegal Residents (CSRSIR) is trying to exploit the political situation in the country to mount pressure on this segment by denying their children the right to education. He asserted these children have become victims of the system. He said the system destroyed the Bedoun parents for several years, so the next step now is to destroy their children by denying them the right to education and regularize their status.

He demanded civil society organizations to make a clear stand on this issue. He added that 70 percent of military personnel who participated in wars to defend the country are Bedouns. He also urged the Ministry of Education to defy the decision by allowing Bedoun children to enroll in public schools.

KUWAIT CITY, Oct 25: Kuwait Society for Human Rights has urged Ministry of Education and Central System for Remedying Status of Illegal Residents (CSRSIRS) to cancel the decision to ban ‘Bedoun’ children from early education, as it violates one of the most basic humanitarian principles endorsed by all religions, laws and human rights, reports Al-Rai daily. In its statement, the society insisted that the right to education is one of the basic rights that have been warranted by all the national laws, covenants, and international and regional agreements.
According to Article 26 of the International Declaration for Human Rights, which was issued by the United Nations’ General Assembly on December 10, 1948, it is stated that every person has the right to education and primary education must be free. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, of which Kuwait is a signatory and had not expressed any reservations when signing the pledge, also specifies this right. Article 13 stipulates, “The State parties to the present covenant recognize the right of everyone to education. They agree that education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, and shall endorse the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

The society stressed in its statement that, “The decision to ban Bedoun children from early education is against Article 13 of the international covenant and also against the human values that were part of the Kuwaiti society. Such decisions tarnish the international reputation of the country. Kuwait will present its second Human Rights report in January next year. Therefore, it is important for the report to reflect development in terms of human rights.”
What would you do if these were your children?  
If you had thought, since the last time school was in session, that your children would be going to a particular school. You buy their school clothes, their supplies... you're all ready to go.  And then, you are not allowed to register your kids.  What are your alternatives?  Have you looked at private school tuition fees in Kuwait lately?  I don't think I could afford to put a kid into school on my salary - and I make a good one.  What about Bedoon parents (some of whom are not allowed to hold regular jobs - think of those guys on the traffic circle selling beans....)?  They certainly can't afford it.  What do you do?  What do the kids do?  This decision is HORRIFIC for the country!
If private schools cared about children in this community, cared about religion or the benefits of education, they would be HUMANITARIAN and allow some form of scholarship programs to these kids!  It shouldn't be about greed!

For a full listing of (2013) private school fees, see Crazy in Kuwait blog link HERE.


Anonymous said...

An eyeopener.Suprised that a country like Kuwait can have such issues. Wish could help. Is there anyway we could help, save their innocence nad give them a brighter future.

Desert Girl said...

You can help Bedoon organizations and/or donate to needy children through these organizations: