More important than showing love is understanding and accepting children affected by war, says teacher from West Mosul

More important than showing love is understanding and accepting children affected by war, says teacher from West Mosul

Yusra is a teacher at Al Hussein bin Ali school for girls in Mosul and she was selected to attend People in Need’s teacher training course in September 2017. Yusra has been teaching English for 33 years and says she loves her job very much. Al Hussein bin Ali School where Yusra teaches 5th and 6th graders hosts more than 800 students at the moment and has only 18 other teachers apart from Yusra. According to Yusra, the number of students may increase from 800 to more than 1000 in upcoming months, as more and more people are coming back and some are moving to West Mosul from neighbouring villages.

“We have from 50 to 80 students in a class and each of them are affected by war in a different way. It is not enough just to treat them with love and kindness; more important is to understand them and accept them as they are,” says Yusra. During the ISIL rule, the majority of children were out of school, whereas teachers were forced to come to school anyway. “Children were learning different names of weapons in English and learning how to count by counting military objects,” remembers Yusra.

Games, art, songs, dancing to attract children

“We as teachers face many difficult situations. Some children are shy, some aggressive; many aren’t able to focus. I try to use games, art, songs, dancing during my classes. It is very effective and even those students who don’t want to pay attention start doing so, they learn faster. Facial expressions are important too,” says Yusra.

“There was a small girl at my class, very aggressive. Once, when all the children left I keep her in class for a while. I played many English and Arabic songs to her; we were smiling, dancing, clapping. It worked. After, she was the first one coming to the class. Even the headmaster was amazed. Children often can be ignored at home, they shouldn’t be ignored at school,says the teacher.

Yusra, herself, was displaced from West Mosul and was living in a camp for internally displaced persons. During her stay in the camp, Yusra used to work as a teacher for an American NGO, learning how to work with children affected by war. Today, Yusra is back in West Mosul. She says techniques she learnt in the IDP camp turned out to be very useful and she applies them in her work now.

“From my experience I always know how to react to difficult situations in a class. I watch many education programmes on TV and buy many books in the market. It helps me to understand what students need at the moment,” says Yusra. However, teaching children affected by war is not the only challenge teachers’ encounter, convincing parents to send their children to school is another issue.

Convincing parents to send children to school

“Especially poor families will think twice whether they should send their children — to work or to school. Teachers, including myself visited those families, talked to parents and tried to motivate children to come back to school. Afterwards, it was successful,” recalls Yusra.

“For those children who were out of school for several years it is difficult to be back. To help them to adapt to school again as well as catch-up with the school program we had to organize summer classes. The catch-up classes were from July to September. Almost 1200 children from five different schools attended catch-up classes this summer.

Children should be motivated to come to school and learn. We need to help them to build their self-confidence. Teachers are magnets and should help them to love school and support them as much as possible. It is essential for every teacher to know the basics of psychosocial support,” says Yusra.

People in Need together with UNESCO which administrates EU funded project in Iraq support 12 schools. Teachers are receiving trainings and incentives and children educational material like school in box and recreational kits. At the same time People in Need team is organizing catch up classes, psycho-social activities, awareness sessions or recreation activities for children. In total 190 teachers and facilitators were trained, 91 teachers received incentives and 2000 children directly benefit from the activities.

Author: Tatiana Gavyuk, PIN Syria & Iraq Communication Officer