A recent report conducted by UNICEF, the International Labour Organization and Lebanon’s Ministry of Labour revealed that there are at least 1,500 children under the age of 16 working on Lebanon’s streets. But the true figure is predicted to be much higher, and the majority of these children are from neighbouring Syria.
On June 11th, recognised as the World Day Against Child Labour, Walid (not his real name) a child labourer from Lebanon, shared his story with Al Jazeera.
Walid is fifteen years old, and started working as a shoe shiner on the streets of the Lebanese capital, Beirut, two years ago, after he left his village and much of his family in Syria. Since living and working on the streets, he has forgotten how to read and write, but hopes one day to be able to go back to school.
“I left my village … in Syria two years ago when the situation started to get worse and my father was no longer able to work. My older brother and I came to Beirut and started looking for work in order to provide for our family back at home.
I struggled to find work, and so an older boy took me under his wing and taught me how to shine shoes. A week later I bought my own equipment and started working.
Before I left Syria I was in school. I wasn’t the smartest at school, but I really enjoyed going, and I really enjoyed studying science.
I had a lot of friends at school, so I had fun. I was learning how to read and write, but now I’ve forgotten it all – the teachers didn’t make that much of an effort to teach us, so now I can’t read or write at all. If I need help with anything I just ask someone to read it for me.
One of the things I really wish for is to go back to school and learn how to do all of these things, but now is really not the time. One day – we’ll see.
I definitely don’t want to keep shining shoes when I’m older. Being in Lebanon can be very hard, and people insult me on the street because I’m Syrian; they tell me to leave and go back to Syria. But other people have also been very kind to me.”
According to the International Labour Organisation’s 2015 report, there are around 120 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are involved in child labour around the world.
- Pray for all those who are working as child labourers around the world. Many, like Walid, are providing for their families, but missing out on school and their childhood.
- Pray for those working to bring an end to child labour, that they will be successful in changing attitudes and bringing back hope to many children.
- Pray for protection for children, and a resolution to the poverty and political issues that force many children into work.
- Pray for children to come to know Christ, and have a hope for their future that is based on His love for them.
Psalm 72 vs 4: “May he defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy”
To read Walid’s full story, and that of other child labourers from Pakistan and Sudan, go to http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2015/06/portraits-child-labourers-sudan-pakistan-syria-150610151019732.html