The computer lab has about 20 students, wide awaken, experimenting with the Photoshop gimmicks they have just learnt. They don’t call their instructor with a mister prefix as they used to at their foreign school. Here they are at a private institute in Jahra and their instructor is just 15 years old. The ‘teacher’ who is running between them guiding to solve their unending problems, seems tireless and excited because of the extra bucks he is making per hour.
Nasir Hatem, the computer instructor, got the idea to work as a part timer from his schoolmate in Kuwait City. “This friend of mine,” says Nasir, “went to America last summer for two weeks and he worked at a restaurant there just for fun”. For Nasir, however, fun was the least reason he opted to work in this summer. In a way it is crisis turned into an opportunity. “I wanted to get some exposure. I felt insecure and inferior because my friends in city would always pick on me saying I’m from Jahra, no matter my defending, so what?” Now that Nasir is getting confident day by day interacting with his intermediate students – one is his own brother – he is only overjoyed at his city friends’ request; when shall we visit you at the institute?
“At first I was horrified at the idea of working,” admits Nasir. “I thought I simply couldn’t do it. But my father gave me a pat, encouraging I’ll be dealing with kids like my brothers. The institute manager has been very kind to me as well”. Nasir said that the idea to work and earn never occurred to him because of his well to do Kuwaiti background. He plans to continue his teaching over weekends, something his father reluctantly agreed to.
In Kuwait, the army of working teenagers is on the rise. Young boys who are selling windshields at the signals or DVDs on the co-op pavements are only one side of the coin. “Many of my friends have found work this summer,” says Nasir who is at the institute everyday for two hours in the evening. Nasir’s grade 10 friends who are working are lucky to get a work experience at their family businesses. They help their fathers or even substituting them. One such helper is Hashim, 16 year old who is the acting cashier at his father’s photocopy center in Mirqab. Hashim’s father runs another shop a few lanes away and is on business trips off and on. “Actually my elder brother is in-charge,” says Hashim, “But I like to be in the shop because if I’m home I’ll only be watching TV”.
These youngsters opt to work in their leisure times for a variety of reasons: The work experience as a base for their further studies and career; the creative and constructive use of time; the inevitable training for future; the need for self-assertion to be stars among the peers and the sheer joy of feeling adult.
However, teenagers who are working do not always fall into the category of white-collar, salubrious and sedentary job seekers. Ahmed, an 18-year-old Syrian knows not the convenience of cash desk nor the comforts of commanding. He’s a car mechanic at his uncle’s shop in Hawally, bathed in grease and gas every afternoon. In the morning he is a student at an institute doing a computer course. He opted to work for the money he has to spend as a student. “My uncle tells me, if I don’t study now it will never happen in my life. I know how to change oil and how to fix a flat tire. But I also want to know bits of computer so that my friends won’t tease me”.
Next summer, Ahmed wants to buy a computer. “Hamdul illa, he doesn’t want to buy a car”, says his proud uncle, beaming.
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