In their own words
For a change, instead of talking about children, Samir Sobhi listens to what they have to say
With almost 30 per cent of Egypt's population under the age of 12, one can learn a lot about the country's future from listening to children. Egyptian children become active participants in planning our future, aware of many political and social aspects. The following testimonies highlight some of their values and beliefs:
- During the holidays, we spend hours watching television because our parents tell us not to go down to the street. I would like to have a computer at home, but the budget of my father and my family doesn't allow it.
- I would like to have a place where I can keep my private stuff, the toys and gadgets, the pens and pictures. My diaries too, which I should start writing just as the geography teacher said.
- Yes, I am in love with the girl next door. Our windows face each other and we live so close. Love must be a great thing, for it is so beautifully described on television and in films.
- I once tried to smoke a cigarette to feel like a man, but I hated it. I hated the smoke, couldn't stand the stink.
- You ask me if I ever lied. The answer is yes. It was necessary to lie in order to get out of trouble. But I wish I didn't. A lot of my friends lie, however. They just make up stuff all the time.
- I'm closer to my mother than my father. This doesn't mean I hate father. It's just that I fear him, and respect him also. Frankly, we don't have a chance to talk together or discuss things.
- I like chocolate a lot. And I'd love to have a gun. You know why? Let me tell you that I would like Egypt to be the best country ever. But I need a gun to defend myself from the dangerous stuff that goes on in the streets. We are always being preyed upon, including by those the press calls the "street children", the homeless ones. It must be tough to be homeless. But it isn't my fault, and I don't like being robbed or beaten for no reason. They hit and run and grab anything we have. Do you know I don't take my mobile phone out in the street anymore, because once they pounced on me and took it. Just grabbed it and ran away. I'd thought that having a mobile phone was a good idea for my protection, to call someone when I need to.
- I love Egypt very much. I live in Shobra and the people here all know each other. But why do they attack Egypt all over the world? We hear about Egyptian sailors and fishermen being abducted. Is this politics or plain robbery? We need to do something about that. Egypt has great men, and their names are known to the entire world. People with Nobel prizes, like Ahmed Zuweil and Naguib Mahfouz, among others.
- I don't know what to say. My pocket money is not enough. Does it make sense for me to ask for LE10 a day from my folks to buy biscuits and chocolate and soft drinks, or to buy a book that caught my eye. And you know what? My family hates my friends, although my friends are very cool.
- I hate it when my family, my father and mother, keep sniffing around to find out my news, although they know all what is there to know, and from me personally. This makes me like to be alone. The worst thing is when my father says bad things about me in front of my friends.
- I'm from Nasr City. I take private lessons and the tutor sometimes stays after the lesson. He just wouldn't leave. He keeps wanting to talk about things that have nothing to do with anything. This makes me hate him and I feel that homework is just boring. There are too many students in my class, and the noise is unbearable. So it's hard to understand the teacher. As a result, some teachers treat us like children.
- I live in Heliopolis. A lot of questions go through my mind this year, as I turn 12. For example, does God see me even when I am under the blanket? Also I am very afraid. A relative of mine died and the father of one of my classmates died, too.
- I'm a girl from Maadi. I have a small family and we live in a new house in a suburban area. My brothers always pick on me and we fight. My mother and father like my brother more than me. Is it my fault that I am an eight-year-old girl? I'm now thinking of writing a novel about the injustice done to females. I will call it, "Injustice to Females in a Modern Society."
- I'm a girl from Mohandessin. My father and mother are members of Tawfiqia Club, where everyone is big on tennis. I notice that my parents fight a lot. Sometimes I think of running away. But where would I go? Can you tell me?
- I cannot give up my friends. Friends, if you ask me, are more important than parents. My mother is tired and gets exhausted easy. And my brother is doing poorly at school, which creates tensions at home. What makes it harder is that my grandpa who lives with us is sick. He loves us and we love him, but the pain of his old age is bringing us down. Sometimes I forget these problems and think of myself. I find that my friends have clothes that are much better than mine. And that makes me think perhaps father should get another job in the afternoon. All of this stuff goes on in my head. And I think maybe I should be a doctor. I now know more about childhood problems than any of my folks and friends.