Tag Archives: Afghan Children

In Afghanistan, childhood is often a full-time job

An Afghan street vendor, selling peanuts, waits for customers on the outskirts of Kabul.
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In Afghanistan, childhood is often a full-time job

Sami Rahimi sleeps fitfully on a bread rack above the bakery’s cold concrete floor. He rises at 5 a.m., sweeps up, washes in a pan of chilly water, then prays. Before the sun has risen, Sami is pushing a dented wheelbarrow through the dim streets, at 13 still a tiny figure among the vegetable hawkers and butchers slicing bloody flanks of sheep from carcasses hung on hooks. He gathers water from a public well and takes it back to the bakery.

By 6 a.m., the gas-fired stone kiln is glowing a fiery red, ready to bake the flat loaves known as khasa and the round loaves called kamachi. Sami sweeps a platform where hot flatbread is stacked for sale. He then sits cross-legged to begin selling loaves for 10 afghanis, about 20 cents each, to customers who thrust bills through a window that he opens and closes with a long metal hook.

Working until dark six days a week, Sami earns about $80 a month, enough to support his entire family: disabled father, mother, three brothers and five sisters. Sami has been at the bakery since he was 10, when he rode a bus from the countryside to assist his uncle, Yar Mohammed, who himself began at age 8. “I’m happy I can support my family, but I would rather go to school and be an educated person,” Sami says. He shrugs as he flips over a steaming loaf with his hook, a weary gesture that makes him seem old and careworn.