Archive for the ‘Kids on the streets.’ Category

A theatre school for street kids

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

Workshops teach children self-discipline while keeping them away from religious extremism and drug abuse.

ONE cannot but admire and appreciate how Mohamed el-Assouni’s street theatre and circus school has inspired poor and homeless children. The school is a large tent set up on a patch of scrubland between a rail line and a huddle of slums on the outskirts of Morocco’s capital Rabat.

The idea of young boys and girls gathering to learn somersaults, dancing and walking on tightropes has been too much to bear for the radical Islamists living nearby.

Assouni had recently dug a 200-metre trench to bring water and power to the school’s tent.

“The Islamists ripped out the pipe and cable in the night. What is wrong with these people? We never bother them. They don’t help out these kids in any way, yet they say we ‘corrupt’ the local children at the (theatre) school.”

Judging by the number of children and teens who thronged the tent on a recent Sunday, the Islamists seem to be losing the argument.

Learning to jump on the trampoline, making puppets and taking part in street parades have been a big draw for the children, many of whom already work elsewhere to supplement their parents’ meagre income, leaving little time for play. More than 260 have enrolled, but not all turn up.

Pupils who rebel against the quiet discipline required at the theatre workshops are sent away and sometimes, frustrations can boil over. Boys have thrown stones at the tent and one slashed it with a knife.

“Even when the school is shut, you’ll see lots of the kids nearby, practising their dance moves or stilt walking,” said 25-year-old dance instructor Khalid Haissi, who turned down a circus job in Europe to teach at the school.

by Zakaria Abdennebi and Tom Pfeiffer.

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