Bored Omani youths urged to get jobs

Education leaders say businesses should offer part-time summer employment for young people with time on their hands while school is out.

MUSCAT // Education leaders have called on the private sector to offer part-time summer jobs to youths in an effort to cut down on delinquent behaviour teenagers usually engage in during the long academic break. In Oman, school and college summer breaks last for more than three months. The trouble teenagers, with idle time on their hands, get into ranges from reckless driving to street taunting.

"Let's get the youth out of the streets and mischief this summer by giving them temporary jobs. Big corporate houses are rich enough to make sure youth are preoccupied and get paid for doing errand jobs," Hamed Mohammed, the superintendent of mainstream curriculum in the ministry of education, said this month. Parents welcomed the call. "My two sons stay out all night with their friends during the summer and I normally get complaints from the places they hang out from the noise they make. Jobs will make them [go to] sleep early," Aziza al Zadjali, 47, a bank accountant, said.

Corporate firms said they try to hire as many youngsters as possible during the summer, but they can only take on some many extra employees. "We do take these youth for three months on jobs in our call centre or to do promotions. We can't take more than a dozen at one time," Fahr al Rowas, a recruiting officer at Bahwan Auto Centre, said. There are no official statistics from either the ministries of education or higher education on how many teenagers take academic break during the summers, but Mr Mohammed put the number in excess of 20,000 across the country.

Colleges and schools in Oman close in early June and reopen in the third week of September; some do not open until early October. Ram Lal, 42, an Indian construction foreman in Muscat, said that earlier this month a group of teenagers wrecked a wooden cabin where his labourers sleep. "About six or seven of them kicked open the door in the night and broke everything inside," Mr Lal said. In the more-populated areas of Oman, there have been reports of teenagers who jumped the walls of private residences to steal cooking gas cylinders and then scrawl on the windshield of the cars.

"My gas cylinder was stolen in the night and someone wrote on the windshield of my car, 'cat of the night was here' in Arabic," Suleiman al Khraify, 32, a resident of Al-Khuwair in Muscat, said. Similar messages were left at three separate houses in Barka, about 50km north of Muscat, involving the theft of gas cylinders. A psychologist said activities may help to rein in summer mischief, but that it was not enough. "Parents must also take the blame for failing to discipline their kids. Also, peer pressure makes these youths join the bad gangs and cause havoc in our streets when they are bored in the summer," Faiza al Saleh, a psychologist at the ministry of health, said.