A Kindergarten On The Streets

A child threads cotton balls onto a wool covered pipe cleaner in a kindergarten near a quaint sleepy village in the United Kingdom – they call it play, developmental learning.  On an expansive open-air park in the middle of Phnom Penh, Cambodia a 2 year old threads fish balls onto a wooden skewer – here they call it a living.  Work.

The focus of the deep black eyes of a handsome little boy changes from his bag of fish balls to us.  Unmoved by our presence, and after a short visual interaction, he continues his work – one more skewer, six more fish balls.

10 metres away his mother keeps a watchful eye on her employee son and with a nod gives us approval to photograph him.

Despite him not being old enough to talk he looks at us now with a question.  “Why me?”  “What’s so interesting about this scene?” he seems to be asking.  “It’s what I do.  It’s who I am” And indeed it is.  Looking around we start to see more and more productive toddlers contributing to “street capitalism”. None of them desperate.  All of them smiling.

A way of life here may seem like child labor in the United Kingdom but tell that to this little guy and his mum.  He hasn’t got his hand out for a “donation” and his smile tells you that he’s not exactly unhappy with his lot in life
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Open Air Learning

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