BAGHDAD, As announced during International Day of Education, marked on January 24, 50,000 children and adolescents have been identified and more than 14,000 have been supported to get enrolled or re-enrolled in schools as result of the “Back-to-learning Campaign”, finalized by the end of 2021. The project, coordinated by UNICEF with the Ministries of Education of Federal Iraq and Kurdistan Region, and financed by Germany and Canada, identified these children and adolescents and facilitated their enrollment in formal and non-formal education through mobile teams.
“I dropped out from school due to health issues. Now, thanks to the campaign, I am back to school. This is great!”, said Dunya, a 13-year-old girl from Erbil, one of the girls who has been re-enrolled in school through this campaign.
Other identified children and adolescents who were not eligible to be enrolled in the formal schooling system have been supported to join the available informal education opportunities. In Iraq, thousands of children and adolescents are out of the education system, especially those most vulnerable. The pandemic has only exacerbated this trend, leaving thousands of children and adolescents more at the peril of capping their development. UNICEF is focusing efforts to increase access to basic education for dropped-out and out-of-school children in Iraq.
“This generation of children and youth cannot afford any more disruptions to their education. UNICEF will continue working with the Ministries of Education of Federal Iraq and of the Kurdistan Region to ensure that every child has education opportunities to develop and thrive and have access to a better future,” said Sheema SenGupta, UNICEF Representative in Iraq.
“Education is the basis to a self-actualized life. Children must be offered every chance to further their education and to learn everything they need to be able to take the future into their own hands. Germany is proud to support UNICEF towards creating safe and sanitary learning spaces for children in Iraq,” said Martin Jäger, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany in Iraq.
“The compounding crises in Iraq, including the remaining impacts from the conflict as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, have disproportionately affected children and adolescents’ educational opportunities. Canada is pleased to support partners such as UNICEF in returning so many girls and boys back to learning. Safe, quality and inclusive education is a human right that all students are entitled to, regardless of where they live,” said James Christoff, Chargé d’Affaires a.i. in the Embassy of Canada to Iraq.
Through this intervention, UNICEF trained 330 teachers, social workers, and education staff in Duhok, Erbil, Kirkuk, Ninewa, Northern Diyala and Sulaimaniyah to work in their communities and support the return of children to schools through different practices such as community mapping, group discussions, door-to-door mobilization and one-to-one sessions.
“The Back to Learning Campaign was highly accepted by the population, especially among the low-income families and those who missed their opportunities due to conflicts and displacements in Ninewa; students were extremely happy to know that with the support from UNICEF, they would still have the opportunity. They even received the mobile teams with tea and sweets and let them in to their houses,” said Dr. Abeer Mufakker, the coordinator at Hadba Directorate of Education in Ninewa.
The teams were also able to identify cases that need special attention. Diman Wali, Social Worker in Erbil Directorate of Education, indicated: “During my visits, I met a mother who said her son has special needs and it is difficult to get him enrolled. Through this project, we were able to enroll him in school. They were very happy!”
UNICEF is supporting the Directorates of Education on implementing this method of mobilization networking, which enhances the linkage between the education system and communities, crucial to achieve better results. It also promotes a practice of community problem solving, in which the identified problems are addressed through the local institutions and community members themselves.
Source: UN Children’s Fund