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Stolen Smiles – The mechanic and the boy

June 7, 2011

 Dear world,My name is Mohammad and this is me taking a stand against child labor.This is the second of 4 posts; over the next few days I will share few stories that I heard/saw; in the last post we will discuss what can be done; I will edit the last post based on your comments on the first 3 posts!
First post: here

I didn’t pay much attention to him . . .

Who does? If you have a car, you have to take it to the mechanic someday (unless someone takes care of the dirty deed for you!) and if you visit a mechanic in Amman you are very likely to see a kid working around the shop that it has become a “normal” sight; after all I was too busy cursing my terrible luck that has rendered my car useless when I needed it the most, how unfortunate was that?

I walked into the shop, the usual stuff: a big door, a big rectangular hole in the ground, shelves filled with tools and like any other workshop the floor was covered by dirt and a variety of oils that has been molded into a tar-like layer by hundreds and hundreds of cars and shoes over the years.

I asked who’s in charge, the chief “il ma3alim”, came out, we discussed my car problem and agreed on a price range and the time to get my car back . . . in the corner of my visual field was another one of those boys; I’m not sure if I noticed what he was doing . . . I was too occupied, after all, I had a broken car; I was the “misfortunate” one!

Time to bring my car in; as I parked in front of the door ready to get in I noticed the boy again, he was 12 to 14 years old … not that young by the standards of such shops. I noticed what he was doing too: armed with primitive tools,  his job was to combat the thick tarry layer that has creeped all over the place.

He was blocking my way into the shop; I wasn’t sure if he was too busy beating the tarry layer with whatever metallic tools he had at hand like it was all his despair mottled in thick blackness or if he simply decided to ignore me . . . I just didn’t want to honk the horn or ask him to move, actually, I couldn’t, I just stayed there . . . In a couple of minutes another mechanic noticed and yelled at him “You, stupid, get out of the car’s way, do you want to die?”

The boy grabbed his bucket and tools . . . moved to one of many other spots taken over by the “dark matter”, he placed his tools on the ground as he muttered “I wish I could die; it would be such a relief” . . .

 Dear world,If a community labels a child as “unfit for education”, or even worse, if the family cannot afford education and that child becomes an apprentice to learn a craft, what age should be considered the “legal age”?Who decides if its better for a child to drop out of school? And at what age is it OK to do so?

Looking forward to your replies.


Edit (18th of July, 2011) : Parts of this mini series:

Part 1:
Part 2:


Some one actually took the time to type my last post into Arabic (I would have done it myself, except that I’m very slow with the Arabic keyboard). I think I will post the translations together at the end, we’ll see how that goes. Thanks Marcel!

For this drawing I tried mixing different media, mainly charcoal and acrylic, but I also used some colored pencils, aquarelle and pens. Find it on:
Facebook: here
DeviantArt: here

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Alaa permalink
    June 7, 2011 5:50 pm

    well i believe that children should get full education .. despite being poor or unfortunate there should be an institute that take care of such problem one that can offer free education for those who cannot afford it … and know one should be labelled as “unfit for education” even if they have learning difficulty there should be people who are specialized in such cases … and after all children are just children they belong in schools and playgrounds not work shops ….

    • June 7, 2011 6:08 pm

      indeed Alaa . . . education is a universal right, taking it away cannot be justified!

  2. June 7, 2011 6:30 pm

    man ……..
    … is crazy …absolutely crazy what can some ppl do to kids ….no kid is unfit for education …and having no money is not an excuse …there are some exceptions….but this still doesnt mean that we should be throwing innocent creatures into these screwed up societies …filthy streets and into the arms of perverts and pedophiles !
    Great job 7irz !

  3. June 7, 2011 11:33 pm

    Everyone deserves basic education (Middle & High school), After that, those “unfit for education” are more likely to fit somewhere else, so, if i need to blame this on anyone, i blame it on the ignorance of the family, and the lack of options provided!!!

    • June 7, 2011 11:45 pm

      well-said ! Is your offer about doing something about it still on the table?

  4. June 8, 2011 3:26 am

    Education is almost free in Jordan. And it is obligatory! The government needs to keep an eye open about such cases bc they’re exceeding the oddity!
    Thinking of the possibility of having families living below the poverty line and depending on the salary this kid takes makes me think of one solution, is having an agreement between the schools and some local -craft shops- I dunno what they’re called but shops like mechanicials or bakeries… Etc. Where the kid goes to school in the morning and goes to work afternoon and he gets paid by the shop owner and the government-which is responsible for helping such people!

    • June 8, 2011 7:12 pm

      you’re onto something here, “legalize it with limitations” kinda thing?

      • June 9, 2011 3:23 am

        I know children should not be responsible for others mistakes; parents or governments… But I’m with this solution for 2 reasons:
        – we always aim for the better I know, but we’re not living in utopia! I wish we can make them suffer not but we just can’t! (We can if we change X,Y,Z… but they’re not seeming like being changed any soon! sad) so the best solution is make them suffer less by making them paid more and making the job owners respect them and treat them as dignified ppl.
        – Some children are not into academic fields… -You cannot control that-. We can prepare them this way for their future job+ giving them the ability at the same time to have an idea about the basics and see if they’re gonna change their minds.

        I know you’ll say haaaa? wth he’s a child! but what if his father is dead, his mother is sick and he has brothers/sisters… I’m trying to think of an extreme situation where resources/justice do not exist.

  5. Haitham Al-Sheeshany permalink
    June 8, 2011 12:56 pm

    Not that I want to “sound” different, but have we been in a situation where we were forced to make a choice between education and bringing-in a leaf of bread? I do agree to what the commentators said, that`s for sure. I`m just trying to raise a key aspect in understanding/resolving the issue.

    It`s “much’ easier said kinda` issue!

    • June 8, 2011 7:10 pm

      I agree, but would you care to elaborate? what would be the right thing to do when you’re under 18 (or any other number of your choice!) and need to bring some money in?

  6. June 8, 2011 7:43 pm

    very descriptive …….loved the way u described the scene ….very good job !
    that kid is just an example of thousands ….maybe literally millions of kids all over the world !

    someone has to do something …why the hell do we have governments !

    Thank u for spreading the awareness ….thousands of ppl had been into that garage …non of them gave the child a second look ….humans have failed their message ….and ppl have screwed this planet !

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