Kano, Nigeria – It is a bright Thursday morning in Kano, Nigeria’s second most populous city and the economic nerve centre of the northern part of the West African country.

The streets are teeming with people dressed in colourful traditional clothes while tricycles compete for customers and space on the busy streets. A group of young boys zigzag through the street traffic with a cloth and a bottle of soapy water in hand, asking people on rickshaws and car drivers if they want their windows washed. But they are quickly ushered away.

Disappointed, the boys rush down a side street knocking on doors and asking anyone who opens if they have any work.

The boys are on a three-hour break from one of the Al Majiri schools – religious places of learning – on the eastern outskirts of the city. They are part of more than 250 students who attend the Tahfidul Quran school.

After few knocks, the boys strike it lucky. Two women usher them into a compound and point to a heap of unwashed pots, bowls and utensils.

Short on time they quickly get to work, spending the next two hours washing the dirty cookware. In return, they receive a breakfast of boiled rice.

“I have been doing this twice a day for the last three years,” 13-year-old Muhammad Sagiru, told Al Jazeera, his tiny frame hidden behind the wall of dirty pots.

“Some people, like this lady, feel sorry for us and give us work to do and then give us food,” he added, expressing relief that he found a job and can eat breakfast.