As readers of this blog will know, I like to give space to local writers and voices inside Syria to write articles on whatever matters may be of interest to them. In this case, a female writer from the Idlib province town of Ma'arat al-Nu'man has written an article for this blog on the growth in the phenomenon of children in work in the Idlib region as a result of family poverty and the circumstances of the war.
Below is the article.
By Nada al-Mahmoud
Children in work in Idlib: an unknown future and a responsibility before time
The phenomenon of children in work in Syria and especially in the areas controlled by the opposition is spreading, as this phenomenon as witnessed a frightening growth, such that it has topped the list of social problems there, as a result of a regression in the level of income of the family, and the aggravated levels of unemployment, and the collapse of many of the professions and jobs, which has pushed a number of the families to send their children to work to help them live on account of poverty and financial hardship.
On a cart to sell vegetables, Omar (aged 13) has been standing on the corner of one of streets of Idlib city since 6 a.m. until late in the day, and sometimes he may extend his time there, if he does not have good luck in selling, until the hours of night. During these hours he obtains a short time of rest to eat lunch.
Omar says: "I am compelled to remain for a long time in the hope of selling what I have but most of the time a lot of what I have remains, so I return with it to the home to put it on display on the following day for sale, which reduces the profit and increases the weariness." In addition, the cessation of study, drainage of the children from the schools and the deterioration of the education sector does not leave for them many opportunities, and compels them in the end to leave the study seats and look for some work.
The child Jasim al-Qadour (aged 14) from the locality of Khan al-Sabl in Idlib countryside has left school to work in a workshop to repair cars, and concerning that he says: "Since around two years I have been working in this worshop from 7 a.m. approximately and until sundown, and I earn 1000 Syrian pounds a day. I know it is very little, but it secures bread for my family at least. Likewise I learn a vocation that will aid me for life."
And al-Qadour adds with agony and sadness: "My father decided that I should leave school to be free for work, for education is no longer possible in our land because of the lack of security, and the migration of most of the qualified teachers."
Further, the lack of the provider is considered among the most important reasons that push children to work, and bear responsibility at premature ages with the goal of providing support for their families.
The child Bilal al-Mustafa (11 years old) from the town of Saraqeb was compelled to abandon school with his brother after the death of their father six months ago with the aim of working and providing support for their family, and concerning that Bilal said: "Since I am considered the eldest son, I left school with my brother who is a year younger than I in order to bear the responsibility of providing support for my mother and young brothers."
And Bilal makes clear that he and his brother found it difficult to find appropriate work, therefore they resort to looking in the landfills for things they could sell and whose price they could benefit from, like pieces of nylon, aluminum and iron.
In the work environments, children bear the risks of dealing with sharp implements and their injuries, which exposes them to the risk of wounds, as a result of lack of safe working conditions, and the negligence of the owners of the workshops for their safety.
Umm Jameel from Ma'arat al-Nu'man attributes the reason for the sending of her 15-year-old son to work in building to the regression of her family's material situation in the recent years, and the weakness of the income of her husband who can no longer cover the expenses. Concerning that she says: "I feel sadness and I cry silently about the future of my children who have abandoned school, but we are compelled and we do not have any other means, and at the same time my children are not the only ones who have abandoned school to head to work. In fact there are many children going every morning to work, and they do not return until the evening, and they bear their concerns and pains with them, and they bear responsibilities much greater than their age."
Umm Jameel also feels pain at what happened to one of her children from the damage to his left toes as a result of the falling of a rock upon them.
Hasna al-Balani- from the city of Idlib and a teacher of psychology- speaks about children in work and says: "We find them in every place: children who have not tasted the sweetness of life, but rather swallow its bitterness with all harshness, and struggle to support themselves and their families." And al-Balani points out that te spreading of children in working in northern Syria is due to a number of matters among them the decline in the living standard, in addition to the belief of some that education is a secondary thing of no benefit, which pushes them to send their children to a specific occupation to insert them into the work market so each of them can become productive and capable of helping their family in providing support.
And she adds: "Also the loss of the father who assumed responsibility for providing support for the family, or the loss of the mother has a negative impact on the future of the children."
And al-Balani affirms that the phenomenon of children in work is not new in Syrian society, but it has increased notably in recent years because of the increase in poverty and displacement or because of the loss of the father to death or arrest, therefore the work has become with regards to the Syrian children an opportunity to improve family income, and among them those who learn a vocation in the hope that it should help them in securing their future, despite all the violations they face in the work environment.
The Syrian war has pushed many children to abandon their education and bear the responsibility of the family, which heralds a great danger to the health of the child, and threatens society with the spread of ignorance and illiteracy. We should also not forget the psychological and society impacts of working on the children like smoking and the possibility of ethical decline.