‘I have to help – it’s only fair’
His 18th birthday is four months away and he only finishes high school at the end of the year, but Salim* already has three years of part-time work under his belt.
Every day after school, Salim helps out at his family’s stall in Durban’s central business district, filling in for his parents, who are both in their sixties, and whose entire income is derived from their licensed street table, where they sell everything from loose cigarettes to toiletries.
The Manchester United fan, who wants to be an engineer, helps by packing up stock and storing it for the next day’s business, which starts before 5.30am to catch customers on their way to work.
“I don’t mind helping my parents out. This is our business and I understand that they can’t employ somebody else to help them,” he says. “There are days when I don’t feel like working, but it’s only a few hours every day. I still have time to do my schoolwork, so there’s no problem.
“My big brothers also worked part time to help my parents out in the business when they were still at school. They have their own families now and have their own jobs. Now it’s my turn to do the same thing. It’s only fair.”
Salim says that, while most of his schoolmates don’t have jobs, some do.
“Some of the guys help out in family shops or businesses. Others have part-time jobs,” he says.
His father, Iqbal, has been a hawker for most of his adult life.
“I come from a family where we were all involved in the business from a young age. You help your parents out. You make your bed, clean up after yourself and help with dishes. There’s no such thing as a maid – you do things yourself,” says Iqbal.
“Now my kids have done the same. We can’t afford to pay an outsider to work for us. There’s not a lot of profit here, so whatever we can save helps a lot. What he is doing is a big contribution to the family.” * Not his real name
– Paddy Harper