Kidnapped education: Iraq

Kidnapped Education: Northern Iraq

Northern Iraq is still bleeding the legacy of war. Despite the successful campaigns to retake the occupied territories, a path of destruction draws in each liberated shred its brutal consequences.

Destroyed or damages schools, devastated educational centers, shelters for thousands of displaced families, child soldiers, silent witness of genocides, or strategic emplacements occupied for armed groups.  The weakening of the Daesh terror regimen has brought up into the surface deeply scares that shakes the bases of the educational system and the access to thousands of kids to the school; mining any sight of hope to await for a future that remains blur.

After ISIS took control of Mosul in mid-2014, the extremist militant group closed the city’s 990 schools, altered the curriculum to support its ideology, and then reopened the schools to push dogma over academic learning. Suddenly, education in Iraq’s second-largest city had been devastated from kindergarten through college.

East Mosul was liberated from ISIS in December, and the battle to liberate West Mosul is still on going. During the almost 3 years of ISIS in Mosul, the ISIS curriculum removed history, geography, literature and art from the classroom. It introduced jihad education for children as young as age 6 and illustrated textbooks with pictures of children wielding weapons. In Mosul and other areas once occupied by ISIS, a million Iraqi school children didn’t go to school or were taught the ISIS curriculum.

Children are back to school after ISIS is pushed out of east Mosul but concern about unexploded devices in and around schools is still high.  In eastern Mosul, UNICEF has reopened 320 schools, allowing 285,000 children to return to school. Other schools are being repaired after airstrikes, mortars or other attacks.

Education in Northern Iraq walks along the edge of the cliff. Children and teachers are finding themselves in the line of fire. There are hundreds of schools in Northern Iraq that can no longer be used any more. Parents are not sending their children to school for fear of what might happen to them along the way. Most of schools found in the recently liberated areas are abandoned, surrounded by a path of destruction and dead bodies of combatants, with all electric system erased and without any kind of water sanitation. Most of these schools were targeted directly by Daesh, the other ones were targeted by the Iraqi security forces and the coalition air force as Daesh was used it as bases.

 Schools are not any more schools in those ones currently used by displaced families. Shared classrooms, hang laundries in the hallways, cook in the courtyard and families sleeping where students once studied. Hundreds of schools in host communities have been taken over as collective shelters

 After the nightmare of the past three years, this is a pivotal moment for the children of Mosul to reclaim their education and their hope for a better future: The conflict has left behind deeply scars in the psyche of children and it has reversed more than two decades of expansion of access to education: An estimated 3.5 million Iraqi children are missing out on educatio