09/29/2015 02:05 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Siblings or School?

Photo: Tabitha Ross/A World at School

Iman Al Ali was so good in school that the other children used to think she was cheating. But, she says proudly 'I never cheat'. Yet this Syrian 11-year-old girl with huge brown eyes and a cautious smile has not been to school in five months, since she had to drop out to take care of her five younger siblings while her parents both work in the fields to scratch together enough for the family to live on. She lives in one of the many refugee camps in Lebanon's Bekka valley, and spends her days cleaning, collecting water, and trying to keep the little ones safe and out of trouble in the summer dust and winter snow.

Photo: Tabitha Ross/A World at School

Iman has this to say:

I loved learning. I loved my friends. English was my favourite subject. I don't know a lot, but I love to learn. My first teacher was my favourite, I had him in grade one and two. He was from our village. I loved him because he was the first to teach me something, and because he was kind.

When we left Syria, it was the summer holidays. On the last day of school they gave me a certificate to say I passed grade four. They had said before that the school would be closing because of the war, but on the last day they told us that they would open it again after the holidays after all. I was so happy because I thought I would see my friends and teachers again.

Then there was a lot of bombing. The sound that the aeroplanes made when they were flying round our house, it really scared me. Then we left and came to Lebanon. Here there aren't any, but even if we hear a normal aeroplane we get scared.

I went to a school in Lebanon for a while. But I left that school five months ago. I can't go to school because my mum has to work and someone has to take care of my brothers and sisters.

My jobs are to clean the floor, to put away the beds, and to take care of my five little brothers and sisters while my parents are at work. I let them play but I don't play with them. If I don't have any chores to do I watch them, but I'm usually busy.

Even so, I want to be a teacher when I grow up, because I want to teach children. Just as I want to learn, I know that when I grow up, there will be children who want to learn too.