Two Teachers in Iraq
Kharabat Sultan is a village in Hamdanya district, in Iraq’s Ninewah governorate. Most of Kharabat Sultan’s residents are Shabak, a minority group with their own language and religion. The majority of the families were displaced during the war with ISIS; now they are returning and trying to rebuild their lives. 280 children attend the only primary school in the village.
After recruiting educational facilitators, People in Need and UNESCO, which administrates an EU funded project in Iraq organized an intensive training for teachers with experience, and community members who wanted to become teachers.
We talked to Mohammed Abas Mohammed, a 15-year veteran teacher, and Mahmood Adnan Khalil who joined the school team almost two months ago as a facilitator.
Mohammed: My family was very poor and I had to work when I was a child. My only dream was to continue my studies. I wanted to be a teacher. As a child, I felt responsible for my whole family. I think that working from a young age made me stronger and more responsible. Now I understand people who are forced to work to support their families. So, if I know about a child who works after school I try befriend and encourage him to go on studying if he wants to have a better future.
Mahmood: I always wanted to be more than one thing! I wanted to learn many things and have many certificates and be specialized in many areas. I was attending the University of Mosul and I dreamt to graduate, but it never happened because of the war. Being a teacher gives me the chance to achieve a dream that I started to have while growing up - to guide, instruct and support the children, especially the vulnerable ones. I always wanted to do this but never had the chance until PIN started working in this school; that was when I felt it was the moment to make the dream came true.
We asked them what it’s like being a teacher in Iraq
Mohammed: Many things changed. Going through war is not something that everyone can handle. Families lose their money, houses, properties and even their loved ones. All these elements affect the relationships between the members of society.
Parents suddenly find themselves incapable of providing their kids with what they need for their education. Also, the school itself cannot escape the damage that the war leaves; for example, there’s always a shortage of teaching staff, textbooks and necessary equipment. My house was destroyed and now I am living with another family. My economic situation doesn’t allow me to rebuild my house. I don’t receive my salary regularly. Sometimes, we are forced to borrow money from friends until we get our salaries.
Mahmood: I think lives of children are much more difficult nowadays because of the wars that they have been through. The wars destroyed their living environment and made them go through situations that they cannot handle as kids. Sometimes in class I’ll refer to children’s parents, specifically the fathers. Later I found out that there was one child who lost his father. I tried to make him feel that he is not alone and there are other members of his family he could depend on and feel safe with. The trainings provided by PIN were very helpful. I am already using everything I learned in my classes, especially active teaching techniques.
Mohammed: I am also using new techniques, even with my own children at home. It helped me to be more understanding of their behaviour. Now I always try to engage them in different activities.
For Mohammed and Mahmood teaching is a mission; they feel responsible for whole community
Mohammed: Many students left their schools and were displaced. Parents were sending their kids to work to support them and improve their life conditions. Some children got used to a different style of living and after coming back, it has been difficult for them to adapt to a life and place that’s nothing like the home that they used to know.
Mahmood: But things are getting better here in the school, and the support that we get from your organization is significant. It helps us to overcome some of the challenges that we come across as teachers or facilitators.
Providing water to the school would be another support appreciated by everyone. Children cannot use the toilet now because of the lack of water.
Mohammed: We are living in a very far away village and we never expected that someone could come here and support our school, but when your organization came we felt happy and we knew that good things will happen. As you can see now, the school has been rehabilitated. All teachers were trained and we received kerosene, heaters, safety and first aid kits, and teaching materials. All of this gives us the sense that things will get better, that we are not forgotten.