09/29/2015 01:49 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

#UpForSchool, Not Work

Photo: Tabitha Ross/A World at School

Abed is 10 years old, he is intensely shy with smooth combed hair and big brown eyes, he answers mostly in syllables, or as few words as possible. He's lost track of how long he's been in Lebanon, but his father says it is three years. He went to a Lebanese school for a short while, but it was in French, he couldn't keep up, and so he left and started working. Due to the amount of school he's missed, he says he doesn't read and write well, even in Arabic. He works in a bag factory, he says he goes every day including weekends and doesn't have time to play.

He came to Lebanon with his dad and step-mum, my older sister, and four small brothers and sisters, from Shaghour, near Damascus in Syria.

Abed has this to say:

"I'm ten, but in two months I'll be 11. I like rice pudding and mashed potato with tomato sauce. I work in a small factory that makes bags. It's my job to organise the bags, and clean the floor. And if people ask me about prices, I can tell them. I have been there for two months, before I was working in a place that sold car parts. My dad was working too but he broke his shoulder falling down the stairs and now I'm the only one in the family working. My dad says we're going to go to Turkey, because it's not good here. He told me about Denmark and it sounds nice, I would like to go there.

"I miss studying and playing with the teacher, I used to like drawing best. I went to a school for a while in Lebanon but it was in French and I didn't understand anything, so I left. It was hard. Even in Arabic I don't read and write very well. There is a course called iqra ('read') that children can go to for three months to learn reading and writing, but then you have to go home because there aren't enough places. It's not really school. When I grow up I want to be a doctor because I want to cure babies. I don't play because I go to work and I come home late and I never get vacations. I used to like riding a bike, but I don't have one here so I don't do it anymore."