Jordanian children forced into work and marriage

Jordanian children forced into work and marriage
Feature: Growing numbers of children in Jordan are being removed from school by their parents to start working or get married, reports Linda Maayeh.
2 min read
06 May, 2015

Nasser spends his long days in the tailor's workshop where he has been for the past two years. He was 12 when his father removed him from school and sent him to work. 

"When I told him I wanted to stay at school he said studying does not put food on the table," said Nasser, now 14.

The boy's friends and teachers tried unsuccessfully to persuade Nasser's father to change his mind.

The teenager used to dream of studying medicine.

"I am the eldest son and my father can't work because he has a slipped disc. I have to provide for my family of eight - my parents, two sisters and three brothers," he explained.

Nasser works 14 hours a day for $10.

He is unable to hide his sadness when he sees his friends going to school while he walks to work. His father also removed his sister from school set up a marriage before she was 18.

     Nasser works 14 hours a day and makes around $10 a day.

The Jordanian ministry of education admits school dropout rates have increased, but has failed to release any figures. Education is compulsory in the Jordan until age 16.

A study by the ministry two years ago concluded that parents remove their children from school for economic, social and family reasons. They incude: poverty, the tradition of marrying girls at an early age, or because a parent has died.

"The ministry has tried to limit school dropouts by implementing laws that ban child labour, and imposing financial and other penalties on parents who stop their children going to school," explained Zainad al-Shawabkehm, director of formal education at the ministry of education.

Shawabkeh said the ministry also raises parents' awareness of the importance of educating their children. If students miss long periods of school, the school's guidance councilor visits their home to find out why.

Rajaa, however, fell through the system. When she was 15 her father forced her to leave school and get married. She is now 19 and has two young children.

"When I told the girls in my class they were happy for me, but a teacher took me to the headteacher, who asked to see my parents. My mother just said 'we're done with school'," said Rajaa.

A religious judge approved her marriage, a legal requirement in Jordan for girls under 18. Her father convinced the judge she would be better off married.

"Stopping students continuing their education so they can work or get married violates their basic rights," said Khalida Mahadin, a psychologist.

Mahadin argues it strips them of their childhood and exposes them to exploitation. "Taking girls out of school to marry them turns them into child mothers who cannot properly care for their own children," the psychologist said.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.