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Jan 10, 2012

Egyptian Street Children

Recently, the Egyptian press began to publicize the negative role of the street boys in the protest movements as agents of destruction, according to the latest investigations that took place near Tahrir Square. Some of the street boys were arrested and investigated. Some of the information, which was made public, revealed that they have been recruited by people and were paid to do specific acts of destruction to property by setting specific buildings on fire.

The issue of the street boys should not be dismissed so lightly, because the average Egyptian has gotten used to see boys in the streets, begging or trying to clean the windshields of cars when they are stopped at red traffic lights in the hopes of getting a few piasters (Egyptian currency) for their efforts. Some of these boys are also supervised by adult women who provide shelters for them at night and during the day they assign them certain streets on which to beg. At the end of the day, their professional adopted mother collects the money they have obtained from begging.

The issue of boys in the street is not a rare or hidden one. It has been part of the daily scene in Egyptian cities. It is not unusual that some of these kids get involved in criminal activities such as theft, killing or drug crimes. The street boys dilemma is a critical national problem that should be dealt with in a very serious way. Their number has been estimated to be around one million and they pose a very critical and dangerous problem for Egyptian society at large. I classify them as walking ticking bombs that will potentially explode and should be disarmed as soon as possible.

Some of the factors that contribute to this social and criminal dilemma are attributed to some of the following factors:

1) Poverty and unemployment, because nearly 45% of the Egyptian population is living below the poverty index level, which makes it very difficult for families to take care of their members, especially if the head of the household is unemployed.

2) Broken families, as the result of divorce or when the head of the social unit has abandoned his children due to desperation.

3) The high illiteracy rate among parents, which makes some of them unable to raise their children, especially during the critical formative years (the first 6-7 years of their lives).

4) The recruitment of some of these kids by adult criminals to be used for unlawful activities for financial gains. School dropouts are especially susceptible to these adult criminals.

There are other factors that contribute to this national Egyptian problem, which needs imminent attention to bring an end to this dilemma in the long run. The majority of Egyptians are devout religious citizens who also believe in justice and fairness to all. According to a recent census report, there are more than 80 million Egyptians using cellular phones. I am of the opinion that users of these phones will not object to pay an extra one Egyptian pound per phone to be collected per month to be used for a project designed to help street boys.

The proposed suggestion, if implemented, will net at least one billion Egyptian pounds per year. This will be a very large amount of money that will initiate very comprehensive and different reforms and educational programs to educate and teach skills to those who do not want to pursue further education. They should be housed under professional supervision. Also, as an incentive, they should be helped financially during the learning process “Earn while you learn.” After they complete their educational and training period, they should be guaranteed a job. Furthermore, some of these unfortunate children should be treated for psychological problems if necessary.

The nearly one million youngsters could become a forceful, positive segment of Egyptian society instead of remaining a destructive one. The Egyptian government should learn from the negative experience of the street boys in Brazil, who were a destructive force for that society for a long period of time. Like Brazilian citizens, as well as other foreign citizens, Egypt depends a great deal on tourism and there is a possibility that some of these young street boys will become a threat to tourists. This problem should be dealt with in a very serious manner. The proposed one Egyptian pound contribution will pose no economic problem and will help the Egyptian government, who is facing a difficult economic problem during the transitional period at the present.

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