The first time I visited the school it was a cold day in December. I had heard about the school from a friend who had been working in this community of families displaced because of ISIS from all over Iraq and even Syria, from various different people groups and backgrounds. Some of them them had been living in unfinished abandoned apartment buildings while others were provided a 3 bedroom house that usually has to fit about 20 people.
At the entrance of this community stands about 15 old caravans that were left by a previous NGO and now served as a school for around 500 children. It had just rained the day before and from the road to the caravans we had to jump from rock to rock trying to miss the mud and puddles. We passed a broken and dusty generator and run down bathroom stalls on the way and when we got inside it was apparent that these caravans weren’t built to last long. The floors had holes in them and some were completely caving in, and without electricity each room was cold and classes had to end when the sun set.
I stepped into one of the caravans in the middle of a high school class. Regardless of the conditions, the students were bundled up and had smiles on their faces ready to learn. One of the local guys showed me where they had just fixed the broken windows. He said that last week these students had to try and write while holding their jackets over their head to stay warm and keep their papers from blowing away.
One of the biggest problems with education for those who have taken refuge from war in Northern Iraq is that all of the public schools are taught in Kurdish, a language that the majority of them don’t speak along with their parents being concerned to send their children for fear of mistreatment. Education is not a right that every child has. Even for a makeshift school like the one I was visiting, which was affiliated with the Iraqi government, some students were being required to bring a permission form from their previous schools in conflict zones which were too unsafe to return to.
It’s such a difficult situation and while there are so many problems, it seemed like the least we could would be to help give these students a school where they could be warm while learning and feel dignity going to.
The improvements to the school we were able to support made a big change. We returned to see kids running through the courtyard and all of the caravans reorganized to look more like an official school. The bathrooms are now usable, the children don’t have to walk through mud before class, the caravans can stay warm and now the generator is going all day! For the winters here in Northern Iraq this makes such a big difference and is a blessing to the entire community!
Written by Allan
Light a Candle Project Northern-Iraq