We Are Not Children Since We Do Not Go to School, Nor Do We Play Games

Children's faces are blurred to protect their identity

Jameel and Shafiq aged 8 and 9 are brothers who have been working in the local bread making shop for more than a year. They have learned to make the dough balls, each of them earning 110 rupees a day (almost $0.66). They consider themselves fortunate as they are not only able to contribute to the family income but  also are able to take some leftover bread home. Since their day starts predawn and lasts until late in the evening they are provided with breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the shop. By the time they get home, the rest of their siblings are fast asleep and the bread that the two brothers have brought home will provide the family’s breakfast.

Their own breakfast in the shop consists of black tea with Nan bread while the lunch and dinner consist of Nan that is dipped into vegetable or lentil soups that has little nutritional value.

They are both eager to learn how to flatten the dough ball into a Nan, how to make the large batches of dough (using bare hands to mix at least 200 pounds of flour into dough with water, salt and yeast), and finally how to cook the bread in the tandoor. A tandoor is a pit in the ground with a fire constantly burning at the bottom. The heat in the shop is unbearable as the baking pit is situated in the center of the shop. 

To bake the Nan, one kneels by the hot pit and dives in to paste the bread dough on the walls of the tandoor and then again dives in to take out the cooked Nan bread. Children who bake bread develop knee problems at a very young age since they are on their knees all day long.

Jameel and Shafiq are proud to be supporting their families, but would like to see their younger siblings going to school and playing games. They are clearly aware of the pain of being robbed of their own childhood.  Despite their very young ages, when the teacher called them “my dear children”, Shafiq said, “Teacher, we are not children since we do not go to school, nor do we play games.”

We are confident that now both Jameel and Shafiq will be able to pursue a brighter future through the Brighter Tomorrows program in which they will be taught to read and write and provided with tools to heal old wounds and thrive emotionally.