Children on the move

Child labour

When children are forced to flee, their chances of getting an education become considerably worse. And when families lose almost everything during their escape, the risk that children will be forced to work at far too early of an age increases significantly.

Too few children on the move get an education.

Too few children on the move get an education.

Children on the move are often forced to work

If you want a bright future, it's a good idea to get an education. And if you want a good childhood, you should avoid child labour, which can be dangerous for your physical and mental health. However, this is often impossible for children and young people on the move.

Why do many refugee children not go to school?

There are many reasons why refugee children often do not go to school.

In areas of war, many schools are destroyed or closed for security reasons. There may not be schools at all in the areas where refugees are seeking shelter. Or maybe there is no space.

But there are also many refugee children who do not attend school, even if there is a school in the area. This may be because the children are too traumatised by war and their escape to go to school. Or because the children have to drop out of school and work to help their families, raising money for food and other basic needs.

How many refugee children go to school?

Around half of all refugee children of school age do not attend school. And the older refugee children get, the more they lag behind the educational level of their non-refugee peers.

In 2021, the UN took stock of how many refugees are in school compared to other children and young people:

He loves school, but has to support his family

How many refugee children are engaged in child labour?

No one knows for sure. But according to the UN, more than one in four children in the world's poorest countries is involved in child labour. And the vast majority of people on the move are in poor countries.

When a family is forced to flee, they often lose almost everything they own. This is why children on the move in poor countries are at high risk of being forced into child labour.

Why is child labour a problem?

It is quite normal for children and young people to have a spare-time job or do some housework for their family. This is not child labour.

Child labour is when children do work that they are too young for. It can be dangerous for them and harm their physical, mental, and social development. It may also prevent them from going to school and getting an education.

How can we help children avoid child labour and get an education?

Parents rarely engage their children in child labour out of desire. It happens because parents are desperate and need money for food and survival. When we become aware that a child is doing child labour, we try to help the whole family make more money. This can be done, for example, through:

When there are more profits in the family, the child can stop child labour. This allows the child to return to school and a normal childhood of play and friends.

Children should have the right to education and play

Nour, 11

11-year-old Nour works so hard in the field that she throws up

11-year-old Nour works so hard in the field that she throws up

Nour was six years old when she started school in her hometown of Raqqa, Syria. But she only managed to attend school for a week before she had to flee the war in Syria with her family.

It turned her life upside down. Instead of a normal childhood with school and free time, she lives a life without school. Now she has to work hard alongside adults to earn money, so that her family can put food on the table.

Today, Nour is 11 years old and lives with her family in an informal tented camp in Lebanon. Her days are spent working for a local farmer, whom she helps harvest potatoes and onions. She arrives at five in the morning and is not free from the physically demanding work until six hours later. And the hours of hard work under the scorching sun are taking their toll on her health.

"Sometimes I throw up when I get home. My back hurts from carrying all those heavy sacks of potatoes," says Nour.

She and another girl are the only children working in the field. All the other workers are adults.

A vital contribution to the family

"When I see the other children going to school and playing, I feel like everyone else has a life - except me," says Nour.

Nour's income is vital for the family, as her father had a debilitating accident and is unable to work. And at the moment, Nour's mother is pregnant and struggling to earn an income. Nour's mother knows that life is not easy for Nour.

"Nour is young and I know she carries a lot of responsibility on her shoulders. But if I, Nour, and her sister didn't work, we wouldn't have a roof over our heads and food on the table," says Nour's mother.

Nour is far from the only Syrian refugee child doing child labour in Lebanon. In 2018, a survey found that 1 in 20 Syrian children are involved in child labour.

Dreaming of becoming a teacher

When Danish Refugee Council discovered Nour's child labour, Nour and her family were offered a range of activities.

She and her family were given information about children's rights, the risks of child labour, and the importance of education.

Nour has always wanted to go to school and avoid this difficult work, but she used to think that child labour was normal and acceptable. She no longer feels that way. Her mother has also been convinced that getting Nour an education should be a priority.

"After I have my baby, I want Nour to relax more while I take more responsibility for the family. It will be hard, but Nour is too young to pay such a high price," says Nour's mother.

Thanks to Danish Refugee Council's activities, Nour has been encouraged to go back to school. She now attends classes in the afternoon, but she still works in the field in the morning. Hopefully, however, the hard child labour will soon be over.

"When my mother is no longer pregnant, I will stop working. I'm in second grade now, and I want to keep studying until I finish university. I would like to become a school teacher like my uncle, who used to teach Arabic in Syria," says Nour.

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