Mohammad lost partial use of his leg a few months ago when a massive stone fell on him while he worked at a construction site in Bhannine, northern Lebanon.
After several surgeries and a couple of months spent laid up in bed, the 14-year-old Syrian refugee teen went back to his work at the same construction site.
“I desperately need to work. I need to help my father to feed my brothers and sisters,” says Mohammad, whose eight family members fled the devastating war in Syria two years ago. “The situation went from bad to worse in Khalidiyeh. There wasn’t enough food, and everyone was scared, so we left our home. I was having terrible nightmares,” adds the young boy.
Classes Designed for Refugee Teens in Lebanon
Luckily for Mohammad, the construction site is located near a site where Anera provides training sessions in Arabic, English and math to Lebanese, Palestinian, and Syrian youth who, for a variety of reasons, have left formal schooling at an early age. More than 4,000 youths across Lebanon are enrolled in these youth education courses, funded by UNICEF.
“I saw him standing at the gate, staring at students playing in the courtyard. I went to him, and he told me his sad story,” recalls Diana Khaled Ghazzaoui, head of the “Social Skills Rehabilitation” organization where the courses are held. “I immediately invited him to join our training courses, because he seemed so smart and was showing willingness to learn.”
“Mohammad is a very joyful kid. He always used to stay at home, ashamed of his situation. Things are slowly changing for him though. He’s regaining his confidence."
Mohammad joined the Arabic courses at the beginning of June, and plans to take math lessons as well. “I was very happy going to school in Syria. I had friends there, but I had to leave everything behind,” whispers Mohammad. “When I grow up I want to be a doctor. I want to help the young and old by healing them and preventing them from dying.”
The young Syrian refugee teen didn’t quit his job. “I work till 5 pm, then I go to school. You know, life is hard here. My family just makes about 30,000 Lebanese liras ($20 USD) a day. We owe money to a lot of people and we need to pay them back, you understand. We are not thieves.”
“Mohammad is a very joyful kid. He always used to stay at home, ashamed of his situation. Things are slowly changing for him though. He’s regaining his confidence. We are very proud of what we are achieving,” says Ghazzaoui, “We need to work against child labor in our region. School is the best place to work. Unfortunately, families need their children to work and help pay the family bills, and employers take advantage of this desperation by forcing children to work long hours in hazardous conditions for low pay and no rights.”