Not in Palestine. Here in Morocco.
Changes in the Moroccan social fabric are easily discernable. One could see how deteriorating the situation of Morocco’s street children is. The poverty is more rampant now than a few years ago. So are unemployment and illiteracy. It has a lot to do with a worsening over-population and inflation. A lot to do with an outrageously incompetent government and a helpless, maybe, but certainly lethargic population.
What’s heart-wrenching is to see teenage boys and girls sometimes as young as ten wasting their lives away, forced to shine shoes, beg, or do whatever it takes to survive just one more day because their parents, who are unemployed, poor, divorced, and prone to domestic violence, can not provide for them. They salvage scraps of rotten fish in the ports of our cities and collect spoiled vegetables in our souks.
The risks are enormous. They are exposed to nefarious influences; they end up doing drugs and being coerced into prostitution rings where they are traumatically sexually abused by people who thrive on their misery and offer them an illusive glimmer of hope. They are exposed to diseases and malnutrition. They steal, mug, and hustle. They get involved in territory and gang fights; they get stabbed and beaten to death. If they get arrested by the police, they estimate themselves lucky; it’s temporary free shelter and food. They are a nuisance to tourists who forget about them the moment they depart the country and a sore sight to avoid for Moroccans who are forced to share the same streets and markets with them. These kids are the pariahs of our society and the victims of a failed system that lacked, and still does, the foresight to plan for their future. I don’t think these kids chose their present; I don’t think they have much control over their future. They are going with the flow, but it’s a tumultuous and unforgiving whitewater flow.
What’s to become of them in a few years? Are these the responsible citizens we are rearing to power the dynamics of the country’s future?
The government is guilty of a horrendous oversight for failing to provide for these children the lodging, food, and education they need to function as citizens. The Moroccans, the majority of whom became desensitized to such issues, are responsible for letting it happen. The situation is such that Mohamed Choukri seems to have written “For Bread Alone”, which was published in 1972, about today’s Morocco and not the one he survived in the 40’s and 50′s. We are all protagonists in Choukri’s autobiography; we are living it now; we are imprisoned in it. The human desperation is staggering, the moral and physical suffering excruciating; the consequences will ineluctably be devastating.
We need more initiatives like Dr. Najat M’jid’s “Bayti” which has now been operational for more than a decade and has helped over twenty thousand children. Unfortunately, such initiative only lessens from the intensity of the problem; it does not eradicate it. The problem of street kids still persists because it is tightly correlated to problems that are the onus of the government. Movies were made about these kids, books written, reports by national and international researchers published. Turn Hassan II mosque into a street children reception center, stop pretending all is well and invite international organizations to help. Stop this policy of eradication by exclusion; Help Morocco’s street children.
Ahmed T. B. Copyright © 2008