By Meryem Goktas and Omer Koparan
AL-BAB, Syria (AA) – Like many of her compatriots, 11-year-old Rahaf is a victim of Syria’s brutal civil war, forced to drop out of school to provide for her family and leave her dream of becoming a teacher behind.
As her father is sick, she provides for her five younger siblings and parents by selling biscuits on the streets of al-Bab city in the country’s north.
"I leave the house at 10 a.m. and return in the evening around 10 p.m. I sell two boxes of biscuits a day. I go to shops, to cars. Some people buy them, some don’t," said Rahaf, speaking to Anadolu Agency.
Her family moved to Al-Bab after they were forced to leave Deir ez-Zor province when their home was destroyed.
While conflict, displacement and violence have become part of daily life in Syria, many children have been forced to assume the role of family provider.
– Leaving classroom behind
"When I sell biscuits on the streets, I see other children leaving their homes for school. I wish I could go like them. I miss my school and my friends in class very much," Rahaf said.
Speaking about her dreams, she said if she gets the opportunity to return to school, she would like to study to become a teacher.
"I want my siblings to go to school as well. They still don't know how to read. At least I know how to read and write.”
Syria has been locked in a devastating conflict since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected severity.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced, according to UN figures, while children continue to bear the brunt of the conflict.
Constant displacement in the country leads to irregularities in children’s lives, which especially affects their access to education.
According to a UNICEF report in 2018, around 5.6 million Syrian children were affected by the ongoing conflict and over 2.1 million children were out of school, while some of them have never seen the inside of a classroom.
– Harsh living conditions
"When I sit in my room here in Al-Bab, I remember my home in Deir ez-Zor. When I entered my room there, I had toys. I would play with them. The walls were full of paintings. The floors had ceramic," she said.
Noting that she missed home, Rahaf said she would play with her friends in the neighborhood.
The house the family is living in has a skeletal structure without doors or windows.
"It gets very cold in the winter. It becomes windy and rain leaks everywhere," she said, adding the family is not always able to heat the house as they do not have enough money.
"I want this war to end. This war slaughtered so many people, it destroyed their homes. I hope that this war will be over and that we will return home so I can return to my school.”