Iraq: education as a step towards recovery
After hundreds of thousands of families had to flee violence that resulted from war against the so-called Islamic State (IS), Iraq announced it's end in late 2017, having liberated the last zones of occupation. But what happens to children and their education in this post-war context?
Even though a new chapter began for more than 3.6 million people who have returned to their place of origin in Iraq, families are faced with destruction and devastation. “Culturally, for Iraqi people, home is not just a house made out of walls. It’s a place full of memories,” explains Intisar Rashid, one of our liaison officers in Iraq. Ripped of their 'place of memories', and having endured three years of traumatic experiences, the situation remains difficult for children.
Zones like Al Anbar and Tal Afar were under the occupation of IS throughout the three years of the war. Children experienced violence, were indoctrinated in IS schools or were hidden by their parents to save them from IS indoctrination. They were exposed to displacement or violence, and a lack of schooling.
Child education is the start of recovery from the conflict. Even though traumas are not yet overcome, ensuring access to education and preventing dropouts is the first step towards a sustainable future for Iraq.
Life skills to overcome traumatic experiences
As well as distributing material to help families return to their homes, Terre des hommes (Tdh) focuses on access to education in a context of overcrowded classes of children with different schooling levels. In the schools we work in, we first analyse how much the teacher is affected by the conflict. “One of the general fears for staff in schools is that IS will return or attack again, hidden within the population,” says Cynthia Winkelmann, our expert for humanitarian aid. Teachers have an important role within communities, and are provided with psychosocial help to cope with the situation. They are also trained to adequately care for children who have experienced exposure to trauma in safe spaces. “We support resilience to make the return home more manageable for children and we promote life skills that they can use to overcome traumatic experiences,” says Marta Alberici, our Child Protection and Education Coordinator in Iraq.
To ensure a sustainable impact, teachers also learn how to efficiently implement education in emergency contexts, where many children struggle with basic communication skills, or don’t know how to manage their emotions. The main goal is to provide a child-friendly and inclusive environment which prevents children from dropping out of school. After school classes are provided, to ensure that children who have missed school or were in IS-schools get to a level to continue their schooling.
Photo credit: ©Tdh