Clarissa's Middle East Diary: Thursday, March 1

Photoessay: Clarissa's Travels

Thursday, March 1, 6:37 a.m.

The last time I was in Iraq, over Christmas, I noticed a young boy who would eat lunch in our dining room a couple of times a week. He had a sweet, open face and smiled shyly whenever I said hello to him. "Shoo ismak?" I asked him one day — what his name was. "Mohammed," he replied.

Last week, I saw Mohammed again and gave him a Snickers bar. I asked Karim, one of the Iraqis working for us, who Mohammed is and why he eats lunch with us twice a week. He explained to me that his father is dead and that his family is very poor. His mother works as a clerk at the train station and he has a lot of younger siblings. His uncle brought him here a few months ago to see if we had any extra work for him. So, twice a week he spends the morning doing odd jobs and then he eats lunch with us.

I talked to Mohammed again the other day. He doesn’t speak any English and really has a thick, Iraqi accent but I managed to glean that he is 13-years-old and loves football. He is incredibly polite and has a very gentle manner, and I have heard that he is very clever. I asked Karim if he goes to a good school, and Karim explained that the best schools in Baghdad have been closed down. There are a couple of decent schools remaining, but they are in a dangerous area in the West of Baghdad and most of the students and teachers have fled to neighboring countries.

"If you want your children to have a decent education," he told me, "you send them abroad."

"But what if you can’t afford to send them abroad, or you can’t get the visas?"

"Then you send them to a bad school in Baghdad near to your home so it’s less dangerous … Security comes first, science will come later."

** I have not included a picture in this posting because to put a photo of Mohammed on the Internet might be to put his life in danger.

Clarissa Ward is a reporter based out of Beirut, Lebanon. She has reported for the FOX News Channel from Beirut and Baghdad, covering stories such as Saddam's execution and the current unrest in Lebanon.