World Day against Child Labour is on 12 June. As more and more refugees escaping from Syria arrive in neighbouring countries, the number of children made to enter the workforce is rising.
About a year ago, Victor was an average 15-year-old boy. He attended high school, saw his friends after class, and was an avid dancer. Back then, he aspired to become an English teacher once he finished school. Sadly, violence forced Victor’s family to flee Syria and travel to safety in Jordan. In doing so, his family lost their income, and they sacrificed all of their belongings. With his family now under immense financial pressure, rather than going to school, Victor must work every day.
“In a lot of cases young sons have to earn the income for the family in order to survive,” says Salam Kanaan, Country Director for CARE Jordan. “With no more assets and no male head of household who can work, children have to contribute to cover the monthly expenses and have to quit school.”
Six days a week, from 9am until 6pm, Victor, now 16, cleans birdcages and sells them at the local market. He earns around $5.70 a day.
But Victor misses his school and his friends, and he misses learning and reading.
“I am working because we don’t have another option to make ends meet. But in an ideal world, if life in Syria were still the way it should be, I would first finish my schooling and work afterwards. I should not be working full-time now. This is not how it should be.”
Victor does dream of returning to Syria, saying that when he does, he will cram for his exams night and day to get closer to his goal of becoming an English teacher. “That would be awesome,” he says in English and smiles proudly.
CARE is providing cash assistance to refugees in Jordan to pay for basic living costs including rent, food and essential relief items, so that young children like Victor will be able to stay in school rather than working to support their families.
*CARE is committed to being a child safe organisation. Names of children have been changed.