UNESCO works to meet huge education needs of displaced students in Iraq
After Syria, Iraq has the third largest number of IDPs in the world – 4.4 million (figures from “UNHCR Global Trends 2015”) with the majority of school-aged IDPs lacking access to education. With military operations currently underway in Mosul, it is expected that up to an additional 1 million people could be forcibly displaced due to violence and conflict.
UNESCO, with funding from the Government of Japan, has been supporting access to, and improving the quality of, education for IDPs, with a focus on getting adolescent boys and girls back to school. As part of this work it launched two emergency projects to provide adolescent girls and boys of IDP communities and Syrian refugees currently residing in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq with education support to ensure gains already made were not lost. Secondary education also acts as a protection from abuse and violence for both boys and girls in times of conflict.
The first project Bridging urgently the gaps in secondary schooling for girls of IDP communities in Iraq aimed to ensure access to, and improve quality of, secondary education and reached more than 5,000 students from IDP communities, with activities including exam preparation and engaging teaching techniques. It also provided safe learning spaces, incentives, transport and supplies for IDP teachers and students, and equipment and supplies for schools.
Expanding secondary education for Syrian refugees in Iraq
The second project, Expanding secondary education for Syrian refugees in Iraq, reached more than 1000 Syrian boys and girls living within camps in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. It harnessed education to contribute to stability and security and to promote conflict prevention, a culture of peace, and social cohesion among refugees and the host communities.
The Kurdistan Region of Iraq currently hosts nearly a quarter of a million Syrians, 75,000 of whom are children and youth under the age of 18, a large share of which have no access to education.
Building the future for displaced children
As part of an earlier project titled Providing access to quality education to adolescents and young adults in conflict-affected areas in Iraq and using funds provided by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, five new schools for students of IDP communities were opened.
In order to increase and improve quality space for students, prefabricated school premises were provided and the community became involved in the renovation of existing schools including building school desks (Video). Teachers and members of Parent Teacher Associations received training on INEE minimum standards, and textbooks, teaching aids, equipment, stationery and school running costs were also provided.
Ahmad Yousef was one of the 18 IDPs contracted by UNESCO to build 450 school desks, an activity that will help secure his child’s education and form part of the educational journey of the whole community.
“I am happy that I am able to contribute to my child’s education by providing the schools with more desks to accommodate more students,” said Yousef.
The construction of the desks not only helped 1000 students receive a better quality education but was a significant income generating activity for many families.
“We want our children to receive an education despite the circumstances that they are in. The school desks will ensure that more children are able to attend school” said Zainab, a mother working on building the desks.
Overcrowding is still an issue and it is hoped that before the December finish additional pre-fab caravans will be installed.
UNESCO is to scale up its education assistance in 2017 to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced children and adolescents in Iraq, building on its previous work. “As Iraq is witnessing a new humanitarian emergency, bridging widening learning gaps is critical to bring stability, a sense of normalcy and hope for the future for thousands of internally displaced children and young people. This is why UNESCO puts IDP education at the heart of its work in Iraq”, said Louise Haxthausen, Officer-In-Charge of the UNESCO Office for Iraq in Baghdad.
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