Hadi’s story – swapping work for education

With the European Union support, we’re working to prevent and respond to child labour to protect children from violence and exploitation

UNICEF Lebanon
Hadi, a 14-year-old Lebanese
15 March 2022

As Lebanon’s economic and social crises continue to worsen, many families have found themselves unable to afford basic needs for their children. In the face of these significant challenges, UNICEF has scaled up its programmes to provide life-saving support to children and youth by protecting their rights and helping them achieve their potential.

In partnership with the European Union, UNICEF is working with its partners to create a protective environment, where laws, prevention and response services and practices minimize children's vulnerability and protect them from violence, neglect, abuse, and exploitation.

Hadi, a 14-year-old Lebanese boy, lives with his parents in an agricultural valley in the country's south. With his father unable to secure regular work, the family’s debts began to mount. Coinciding with the first of his school’s COVID-19 related closures, he and his brother soon had to turn their back on education and searched for work to help support their parents financially.

Quickly finding occasional and poorly paid work picking fruits, Hadi felt his opportunity to return to school was becoming less likely. “Working in the fields soon became a way of life for me,” he recalls. “It has been my father’s life, so I felt it was my destiny too.”

Hadi with his mother

While his mother admits that they need the income her two children bring home, she regrets that it became necessary. “What mother wants to break their child’s dreams and take them from school early?” she asks, before stressing that she feels they had no other alternative.

Referred to UNICEF’s European Union-funded child protection programme through an implementing partner, the two boys and their parents receive psychosocial support and positive parenting sessions.

“It was an opportunity for Hadi to become a child again”

The sessions placed Hadi among similarly aged children who had also dropped out of school and worked. “We were able to share our stories, and it was good for me to discover that I’m not alone in this” he says.

Hadi with his sisters playing

“It was an opportunity for Hadi to become a child again,” his mother said.

For many children, child protection on its own is no longer enough. UNICEF’s caregivers programme is critical in increasing parents’ knowledge and changing attitudes towards child labour to keep children protected and with their families.

Today, Hadi is back in class.

“I want to continue learning. I have a much better chance in life now that I’m back to school”, says Hadi. “Every child should be at school and not working or on the streets”.

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This story was produced with the financial support of the European Union.

Its contents are the sole responsibility of UNICEF and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.