Thirteen-year-old Walid lives in Gaza, near the Israeli border, where fear of recurrent hostilities is constant. His mom and dad are unemployed, his father’s health is poor, and the house they live in, with his five siblings, is dilapidated.
In 2019, when he was in the sixth grade, Walid dropped out of school and joined the labour market. His achievements had been low, and he had not received enough support or guidance. “I left because I couldn’t read and write well,” he explained, “but also because I wanted to make some money to help my family, even with small amounts.” His mother further explained: “I can’t help Walid or his siblings with their homework. I often get angry, and all I do is shout at them. Sometimes I even beat them”.
In the Gaza Strip, being out of school often exposes children to exploitation, abuse, and violence. No longer a pupil, Walid supported his family by taking low-wage jobs. “From six in the morning to three in the afternoon, I would work as a porter in the market for ten shekels [US$3.07],” he said. “But I was in severe pain because of the overload. Then, I would continue my day collecting empty cans for five shekels.” He also joined some of the “Great March of Return” protests near Israel’s perimeter fence, where he was once injured, when a tear gas canister hit his right leg.
In November 2020, with funding from the occupied Palestinian territory Humanitarian Fund (oPt HF), Terre des Hommes began supporting Walid and his family. Walid was provided with psychological support and remedial classes and, after three months, he was re-registered in the seventh grade. His family received cash assistance to buy basic products and a new school uniform for Walid.
This was part of a larger project helping 700 boys and girls to either go back to school or prevent them from dropping out. Most of the students’ families cannot afford education expenses. Support provided included remedial classes, school reintegration, uniform provision, cash assistance, and mental health and psycho-social services.
“Going back to school was my decision,” Walid stressed. “I feel strong and proud of myself for doing it. Being out of school had made me nervous and hopeless. But remedial classes made me happier, and now I can read and write much better, and have made friends.” Walid’s mother is also happy with this assistance. “I attended sessions about how to positively deal with children,” she recalled. “I was delighted as Walid returned to school. His level has really improved.”
“I knew many other drop-out children who worked or hung out in the streets, doing nothing. I hope they can get the same help that I got,” Walid concluded.