“I wish I could attend school with my friends, but my father is sick and my mother says that my future lies in working, not in schools. My little sister has a minor disability and cannot attend school due to the transportation. We have no money, so I have to work instead of my father in order to live and secure treatment for my little sister,” said Omar, an 11-year old Syrian boy who is forced to work in Jordan to support his family.

Omar’s situation is similar to that of roughly 11,000[1] Syrian children living in Jordan,[2] who have not been protected by local and international resolutions, conventions and legislation that prohibit and criminalize child labor, which has increased due to the difficult socioeconomic situation of Syrian families in Jordan, as well as the inability of humanitarian organizations to meet their basic needs.

Syrian refugee children have become breadwinners in Jordan; forced to skip school and trapped in long hours of cheap labor, depriving them of their childhood, their health and education. Many are stuck in work that is unacceptable for children, in sectors such as agriculture, smithery, manufacturing and carpentry.

The prevalence of child labor can be correlated to Syrian refugee children’s lack of access to education in Jordan, despite the Jordanian Ministry of Education’s decision to accept any Syrian refugee child in government schools, even those who lack the required documents and special refugee ID card. However, this decision was conditional on the legal status of Syrian refugee families; they are required to regularize their legal status within six weeks, which is not possible.

Furthermore, what make this process difficult to achieve, in addition to the difficulty of obtaining the necessary papers that guarantee the admission of Syrian refugee children to Jordanian schools, is the exit of many Syrian families from camps without obtaining either identification papers or legal exit papers, which is considered to be against Jordanian law. For this reason, the SCP found that the school enrollment ratio among Syrian refugee children in Jordan did not exceed one percent since the Ministry of Education adopted the aforementioned decision.

In addition, UNICEF plans and programs which aim to prevent child labor and increase school enrollment rates are still unable to meet their desired objectives.

For example, cooperation with non-formal education organizations which guarantee out-of-school students access to education will not yield positive results, because these organizations are not able to qualify these students to join higher grades as they only focus on literacy. UNICEF also requires that the distance between the child’s home and the school be three kilometers in order to provide a transportation allowance. However, this is an unfair condition for children who have to walk two kilometers to reach the nearest school. Moreover, there are no trainings for educational staff that enable them to successfully deal with cases of violence or disruption as a result of overcrowding of students.

A study by the World Bank found that 70 percent of Syrian students are subjected to bullying and verbal abuse, which force children to leave their schools for their safety and dignity.


  • Mainstream the UNICEF financial support program for Syrian students enrolled in basic education.
  • Exert pressure on the Jordanian Ministry of Education to extend the duration of obtaining identification papers from 6 weeks to 12 months.
  • Monitor child labor, document cases and discuss them with UNICEF to be presented to the Jordanian government.
  • Follow-up on the child labor issue with the Ministry of Labor for monitoring and accountability.

[1] This number is based on a statistical survey by the International Labor Organization (ILO), in collaboration with the Jordanian Ministry of Justice and the Center for Strategic Studies.
[2] There are roughly 660,000 registered Syrian refugees in Jordan.

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