At 13, Mohammad works to save money in hope of going to school

“I dreamed of a life for my children. But when you are in need, you cannot dream too much. I have four children aged between 13 and 8 and my husband stopped working a few months ago due to back problems. He used to be a daily worker, “says Oumaya Steif, 31, originally from Maaret el-Neeman in Syria and arrived in Lebanon 7 years ago.

“Since the start of their schooling,” Oumaya says,“the children were in a private, affordable school. But with the Coronavirus confinement in the spring of 2020 and the economic crisis in Lebanon, plans have changed.”

“I haven’t even finish elementary school and I saw my children studying at home on their own. They needed to be helped but I don’t have enough knowledge to do so,”she says.

Mohammed, 13, started working in a car garage a few months ago. Also, last year, in full lockdown, he left the private school he was enrolled in taking intermittent online classes at the public school.

Today, Oumaya is looking for a good public school to place her children, but Mohammed is immensely sad because he has to change schools.

“In my school all the teachers like me and I have friends. I am also the first of my class. But the two years of confinement were really difficult. The Internet was weak and there were many blackouts and we did not have a subscription to the neighborhood generator. Unlike my hours spent in class, I no longer understood anything,” says Mohammad.

Her son, Mohammad spent this summer working for a mechanic. He earns 100,000 liras a week (about 6 USD), he gives part of the money to his mother, the other part he saves it to be able to buy some of the books, pencils and notebooks he needs when time comes to go back to school.

Mohammed vaguely remembers his native country, his mother on the other hand would have liked to be able to return home but she knows that this is impossible and that this return could be dangerous.

“I would have liked my family, my sisters and my brothers, not to be scattered among several countries in the region. I wanted my children to grow up in Syria, to study there, to have other lives, but I know that it is impossible for now,” she said.

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