REPORTING. “I dream of going to school, but I know it’s impossible”: in Lebanon, more and more children are leaving school to work

In Liban, Unicef sound the alarm. Children are dropping out of school earlier and earlier, 15% of families would make their children work to survive, a figure that has been constantly increasing since the start of the crisis in 2019.

>> REPORT. ‘It’s a matter of life and death’: With the economic crisis in Lebanon, even rich patients can no longer afford their medical care

On the mountains of garbage that litter the sidewalks of the Sabra district, south of Beirut, dozens of small silhouettes are busy. Children covered in filth, their hands in the garbage cans, under a blazing sun. Mohammad, 13, has been up since 5 a.m. He works here with his 10 and 11 year old brothers. “Our father is sick. He can’t work,” he explains. “So all our loved ones are counting on us to live”.

“I’m ashamed to have to do the trash. We should be in school. I dream of going to school, of having a normal job that helps my family. But I know it’s impossible.”

Mohammad, 13 years old

at BlazeTrends

“We have nothing left”

Bags filled with plastic bottles on their backs, Mohammed and his brothers set off to resell what they have collected a few dozen meters away, where another eight-year-old child, this one, weighs their collection.

Two kilos of plastic bought the equivalent of three euros from Mohammed. The only adult here is called Ali and runs the shop. “There are some who are barely five years old”he laments. “And now you even see girls working in the early hours. It’s so sad, it breaks my heart.”

“But we have nothing left, so our kids leave school to work. Our society is no longer even capable of protecting its children. It is criminal what we are doing to them.”

Ali, trader

at BlazeTrends

After more than 10 hours in the trash, Mohammed and his brothers finally return to find their mother. “I’m angry and I’m ashamed that my children have to scavenge to bring in money”, she confides. “We have no choice if we want to survive. We don’t receive any help so that they can go to school. Neither from the United Nations nor from anyone”. The owner of the apartment asks for 50 euros in rent per month: “So my children work so that we don’t end up on the street”.

Before the 2019 economic crisis in Lebanon, the literacy level of 15-24 year olds was 99.8% according to Unesco. This rate will collapse in the next few years because more than one child in five does not go to school.

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