Back to School: Help Open a Child’s Door

Back to School: Help Open a Child’s Door

Children at Al Rusul school for girls in Mosul, Iraq. Photo: Tegid Cartwright/Oxfam

For a good bit of us here in Ireland, it’s back to school time, which means parents and children are back to stressing about making it out of the door in the mornings on-time. Five minutes late? That’s no bother to some children going back to school in Iraq right now as they also worry about clean and safe access to toilets. Did you know that more than 1/2 of schools in Iraq need rehabilitation and 2.5 million children need help to access education?

Returning Home

During the three-year reign of terror by ISIS, Iraq’s once thriving city of Mosul was torn apart by fighting. Homes, health centres and schools were bombed and shattered to pieces. For many of Mosul’s children and their loved ones, their happy memories and old lives have all gone as children have seen their parents, grandparents or siblings being killed. They’ve lived under the daily terror of violent occupation. Without schooling, only 5% of 8 to 9-year-olds can now read and solve math problems at an appropriate grade level.

When it was safe for Bibi, a student, to return to her old primary school in west Mosul, she found it was a shell. An empty shell. The windows had been blown out, the furniture was broken, and the classrooms empty, void of the children’s work that had once filled their walls. The school’s sanitation system had been destroyed. There was no running water and the toilet floors were covered in rubbish, mud and faeces. The stench was so bad it made the children feel sick.

“When ISIS came, I stayed here for awhile and then I was told to leave. It [the school] was destroyed, the furniture was broken. All our records were all over the floor. There was nothing left for us. Two years of the students’ lives are gone.”
- Muna Husein Kadu, Headteacher at the Al Rusul Primary School for girls
Iraq toilets Mosul - Back To School
The bathrooms in Al Rusul school for girls before Oxfam carried out rehabilitation work to install clean and sanitary toilets and sinks for the students to use. Photo: Tegid Cartwright/Oxfam

Back to School

In west Mosul, families are gradually returning home to rebuild their lives after the conflict with ISIS, and over the last few months children have started slowly going back to school to restart their education. Oxfam’s teams have helped to rehabilitate the water and sanitation systems in over 30 key schools, ensuring hundreds of children going back to school have a safe and sanitary environment in which to learn. This work is complemented by educational sessions on hygiene that teach children about the importance of keeping themselves and the environment clean through interactive games. These sessions also serve as a fun way for the children to engage with each other and rebuild friendships. 
In just three days – that’s right, just three days – Oxfam workers on the ground rebuilt the sanitation system at Bibi’s school, the Al Rusul Primary School for girls. This is the fast, effective, and life-changing difference we can bring to children in Iraq with the support of donors. Now more than half of the schools in Iraq need rehabilitation, along with hundreds of schools in war-torn countries like Syria. We must make sure they have a better future. In three days, we can help protect their future. Together, we can help Mosul’s children get an education, and avoid a lifetime of poverty. We can make sure that boys and girls are in school and not at risk of being worked to the bone – for as little as 10,000 dinars (less than nine dollars a day) – as child labourers. With so many obstacles already making it hard for Mosul’s children to get an education, sanitation should not be one of them.
“The kids are the ones with the hope. They want to carry on and progress”.
- Muna Husein Kadu, Headteacher at the Al Rusul Primary School for girls

How to fix toilets in three days | Oxfam Ireland

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