The Moment I Realized That My Neighbor Was a School Dropout

After work, I went to my usual neighborhood hanut (convenience store) to buy some bread. I finally worked up the courage to ask the preteen boy who works there, Hamid, if he was in school. He told me that he wasn’t. “Why?” I asked. “I left school.” “But why?” He was silent for a moment, hesitating. “Is it that you don’t want to go?” “Yes,” he said. I don’t want to go.”

Despite my questions, I already knew why he wasn’t in school. I saw it everyday: he worked with his brother, Mustafa. It was how they made ends meet. His family probably couldn’t afford to send Hamid to school. His brother needed him.

I wasn’t sure what to say after that. Suddenly, I had an idea: “At the American Center where I teach, I have this- ” (I struggled to find the word to describe it, but we shortly agreed that the French ‘groupe‘ worked just fine)- “club where we talk about Global Politics and how we can help the community. It is totally free, kado (I used the Moroccan word for a ‘gift,’ also adding ‘gratuit,’ the French word for ‘free’).”

“I have some students there who are working on a project about kids who drop out of school. They would love to meet you. My Arabic is not good, but they are Moroccan, so they can speak darija with you! You are invited next week- marhaban bik.”

Hamid seemed happy to receive my invitation. I had the feeling that people rarely acknowledged him as someone other than Mustafa’s brother who works at the hanut. Yet, he is Hamid: a person with a future. A person with a right to an education.

My invitation was spontaneous. Did I give Hamid a false hope that we could find a way for him to go to school? I worried. I had no plan on how my students would be able to help him.
Nevertheless, I’m glad I did it. I have a good feeling about it.



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