Karim has not been to school in over two years. Instead he chops wood to help his family survive.
“I can’t go to school as my family needs to eat so I work with my father and my brother instead,” the 11-year-old, who lives in a camp in northern Syria near the Turkish border, told human rights workers. “The axe is very heavy.”
In nearby Lebanon, in a makeshift camp in the agricultural hinterland of the Bekaa Valley, not far from the town of Zahle, another boy chops wood under the watchful eye of his grandmother. During harvest season, many of the boys and girls in the camp will go to work at the nearby farms for as little as $2 (£1.30) a day, said Abu Mohammed, the camp warden.
Karim, from Hama, and the Bekaa Valley’s children are just a handful of about 2.8 million Syrian children who are out of school, their childhood scarred by years of conflict, discrimination and displacement, their education replaced by months of toiling in the fields.
Enrolment rates in Syria have fallen to an average of 50%, down from the prewar levels in which nearly all Syrian children went to school.
In areas such as like Aleppo which have been devastated by nearly three years of war, enrolment is down to 6%, while half of all refugee children, who number over a million, are out of school. Four out of five refugee children in Lebanon, which hosts the largest number of refugees, do not have access to school.
Those who do are mostly in Lebanese public schools or study in makeshift tents near the informal camps that dot the Bekaa Valley, many skipping classes to work in the fields and earn money for their families.
At least a quarter of schools in Syria have been damaged or destroyed, occupied by displaced families or used for military purposes.
Human rights officials have warned of a lost generation of uneducated children in Syria