Education

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

To make a difference in a child-in-need’s life today, consider sending a quick donation through the button below.

#BacktoSchool #Mosul #Iraq

Five Reasons to Rethink Where You Shop

1 - Water Beats Poverty

From growing the cotton to the dyeing process, it can take a whopping estimated 10,000 litres of water to make just one pair of jeans and one t-shirt. To put this into context, it would take more than 13 years to drink that much water. Millions of pairs of jeans are sold in Ireland every year. But with so many people around the world living without safe, clean water – and global demand for water continuing to rise – you’ve got to wonder if such a thirst for fashion can go on. 
 
When you shop for secondhand jeans at Oxfam, you’ll be helping to make sure that families around the world get the water they need. That’s because the money raised goes into our work to help communities worldwide beat poverty for good. This includes providing clean, safe water – something we all need to live a healthy, dignified life. In fact, in the words of Takudzwa, an Oxfam water engineer in Zimbabwe, water IS life.

Meet Taku, one of our amazing water engineers | Oxfam Ireland

2 - Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

If you’re trying to live a little greener, you’ve probably thought about the way you travel, maybe even what you eat.  But many of us haven’t even considered the contents of our wardrobes. The carbon footprint of one new shirt is bigger than driving a car for 55km while the textile industry accounts for more of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions than international aviation and shipping combined.
 

3 - 'True Cost' of Fashion

Many garment industry workers in countries such as Bangladesh and Cambodia don’t receive a living wage despite working in dangerous conditions. This pay injustice keeps families trapped in a cycle of poverty. In some cases, workers are expected to meet tight deadlines, while discrimination and harassment from management continues to be a major concern. This hidden reality of fast fashion has many unseen victims. 
 

4 - Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle

Every year in Ireland, 225,000 tonnes of clothing end up in landfill. Thankfully, there’s a really easy way we can all have an instant impact – by wearing and caring for clothes for longer. And by recycling or donating the things we don’t want. Millions of items could be saved from landfill every week. Donate your clothes to Oxfam and you’ll be helping to tackle landfill waste – even if your clothes don’t sell in our shops. Because any items that don’t find a new home are sent to Wastesaver, Oxfam’s huge sorting and recycling centre, which saves around 12,000 tonnes of clothing from landfill every year.

5 - Affordable Style

Imagine it’s the end of the month and you can just about see that long-awaited payslip around the corner. On payday, do you hit the high street and drop a hefty portion of that new payslip on some trousers? Or do you pop into your local Oxfam shop to explore its selection of stylish, affordable trousers? Shop with us and you’ll be helping us to fight poverty today – and beat it for good. 

Sign the pledge to say no to new clothes for 30 days. Instead, pop into your local Oxfam shop today to find your next favourite outfit.

Money does grow on trees for Rwanda’s cassava producers

Although women in Rwanda do most of the work on family farms, there was a time when they had very little control over the sale of crops or any money made at market. In recent years, however, women are breaking new ground in farming and food production – and lifting themselves out of poverty in the process.
 
One of those women is mother-of-three Madeleine, who sometimes struggled to feed her children and send them to school. The 40-year-old single parent grew potatoes and beans which she used to feed her family and sold the rest at the market. But her crops were sometimes destroyed by pests, leaving her without enough money to buy the basics.  
 
Madeleine harvests cassava leaves from her farm. Photo: Eleanor Farmer
 
“When you are a single parent, it is hard to feed your children,” says Madeleine, whose husband was imprisoned in 1997 and never returned. “One child this side can ask for school materials, when you don’t have money you become anxious. It is hard for a single parent to provide everything.” 
 
Then she heard about SHEKINA Enterprises, an Oxfam-supported co-operative in northern Rwanda which dries cassava leaves for export to Belgium, Canada, Sweden, the US and the UK. Although Madeleine had cassava trees growing on her land, she never thought about harvesting the leaves and usually threw them away. When she heard that you could sell cassava as a business, she was surprised and a little skeptical.
 
Then Madeleine received her first payment from the co-op. “I felt like I was dreaming,” she says. “I took it and said to myself, ‘Let me buy a hen so that I can have some eggs to sell and buy salt (household items)’.” She also decided there and then to expand her cassava crop from just 20 trees to more than 500.
 
Madeleine and her children, 10-year-old Denyne* and five-year-old Mytoni* with their cousin Irakoze*, also aged five. Photo: Eleanor Farmer. *Names changed  
 
Madeleine’s life has been transformed since that first transaction with SHEKINA. “Within three months, I harvested and made money, and out of it I took 30,000 RWF (€30/£26) and saved it with SACCO (the Savings and Credit Co-operative),” she explains. “I continued saving that amount until I achieved the goal that I had set.
 
“Before my life was all about sitting, feeling lonely and worrying about the future. But since I started to sell cassava leaves, I am fine… The ambitions I have for my children are that my younger children could pursue their studies, have good marks and go to advanced level.”
 
Another woman who has benefitted from SHEKINA’s presence in Rulindo District is Uwera, who used to rely on her mother for financial support. She got a job with the co-op and now works on production three days a week and collects cassava leaves from the farmers on the other two days.
 
SHEKINA employee Uwera Gisele is saving money to study business agriculture. Photo: Eleanor Farmer
 
“I like dealing with the farmers – it’s social. I tell them all the good things about cassava leaves. That’s a big part of my job. I am happy with everything,” says Uwera, 22. However, the most important thing for her is earning a salary.
 
She recently bought a cow but plans to use the rest of the money she is saving to go to college. “I want to study business agriculture,” says Uwera. “After studying I would have enough skills to set up my own business. Even if I could only employ two people, I would be happy.”

JOIN THE MOVEMENT

We put women’s rights at the heart of everything we do. Join us today and be part of our movement to end the injustice of poverty. Sign up, and we’ll get you started with actions and opportunities that will equip you to change the world.

In 2018, 43 people owned the same wealth as half the world – this year, 26 do.

In 2018, 43 people owned the same wealth as half the world – this year, 26 do.

A report released by Oxfam this week highlights that our current global economy is rewarding those at the top - while hundreds of millions of people living in poverty are getting poorer. Last year, the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world saw their wealth decline by 11 percent while billionaires’ fortunes rose by almost the same amount. 
 
One of the main drivers of inequality is the failure of governments to clamp down on tax dodging by big businesses and wealthy individuals and ensure everyone is paying their fair share. Tax dodging by corporations and the rich is costing poor countries $170 billion a year. This means less funds for vital public services like healthcare and education, which are key to reducing inequality and helping people to build better lives for themselves. 
 

This just doesn't make sense

 
This human cost of inequality can no longer be ignored. Every day, 262 million children will not go to school and almost 10,000 people will die because they cannot access healthcare.
 
 
Nellie Kumambala, a secondary school teacher from Lumbadzi, Malawi tells us her experience of fighting inequality. “My father inspired my sisters and me to become teachers. I’ve taught at the community secondary school for my area for 19 years. Our children come from very poor families. Many walk long distances to get here. Many come with empty stomachs. We have a problem of too few textbooks, dilapidated classrooms and teaching materials. 
 
"Over the years, I have seen so many girls and boys who score highly despite coming from poor backgrounds. I remember Chimwemwe Gabisa – she was brilliant at mathematics, the best I have taught. She finished secondary school but could not proceed to college for lack of funds." 
 
The private schools in the city, for children from rich families, have very good facilities. It does not seem right that it is so much harder for children in a government school to be educated. I pay tax every month on my little salary. I don’t understand why the people that have everything are failing to pay their taxes. 
 
With more money a lot could be done at our school. We could provide students with breakfast. We could provide them with textbooks and basic necessities like school uniforms and exercise books. At least this would give them a better chance in life.”
 
Rising inequality is preventing us from beating poverty for good – but it doesn’t have to be this way. There is enough wealth in the world to provide everyone with a fair chance in life.
 
Dedicated teachers like Nellie are the lifeblood of great public services that benefit the poorest. Share her story to help fight inequality and beat poverty.
 
 

Five things I’ve learned being a humanitarian aid worker

This World Humanitarian Day, Iffat Tahmid Fatema, Oxfam public health worker, shares what it's like helping people in our Rohingya refugee response in Bangladesh.

I started working for Oxfam last year at the height of the emergency when Rohingya refugees were arriving in huge numbers every day. At that time, I was toiling in a lab at the Asian University for Women in Chittagong pursuing my Master's degree in Bio-Technology, but I knew I wanted to work with real people, face-to-face. What's happened to the Rohingya people really upset me. I had never seen people living with so little. It really hurt me.

Now I teach Rohingya refugees living in the camp in Cox's Bazar about health and hygiene, to help them keep well and to prevent a major outbreak of disease. We discuss the importance of cleanliness and personal hygiene like washing your hands with soap after going to the toilet and before eating. We work with volunteers from the Rohingya community, training them so they can teach other refugees and spread good hygiene messages far and wide. The Oxfam team has reached more than 266,000 people in the camps so far.

1. Know what motivates you

In this job you need drive, good communication skills, and initiative.

When it's extremely hot, or raining heavily, or you’re tired, you might not feel like spending another long day in the camps. But then you think of the refugees and how you are working for them - that motivates you to keep going.

 

2. You have to build trust

Humanitarian work is also about building trust. You have to be sensitive to local culture and traditions.

You also have to be able to talk to different groups of people in different ways, from children to older people and Imams, the religious leaders. And you need to be a good observer so you can try to understand how people think.

 

3. Speak their language

Sometimes the refugees can be uncomfortable with someone who is not like them, so it helps that I can speak a similar language. But the language is also the biggest challenge as the regional language, Chittagonian, is only about 70 per cent the same as Rohingya.

Oxfam has worked with Translators Against Borders to develop a new translation app in English, Bangla and Rohingya, including specific vocabulary about health and hygiene, so this will be a big help.

 

4. Be prepared to face challenges

Working in the monsoons has been extremely hard and can be dangerous. When there is a heavy downpour of rain, conditions in the camps become very bad, very quickly. You can sink into the mud and lose your boots. When you climb the dirt steps there is the possibility the whole thing will collapse.

5. Patience is a virtue

The most important thing I have learnt is to be polite and be patient - even though I might be repeating the same thing hundreds of times, such as how to wash your hands. I am very impatient by nature, but working in the camps I have learned how to control my frustrations.

The most satisfying part of my job has been hearing from refugees what a difference Oxfam’s support has made to them.

We run regular listening groups where the community can give us constructive feedback. Recently a grandfather told me: "We are happy that you come and you listen to us. Thank you for the work you do."

That made me feel very happy.

This entry posted on 18 August 2018 by Iffat Tahmid Fatema, humanitarian public health worker for Oxfam’s Rohingya refugee response in Bangladesh, as part of our World Humanitarian Day program.

All photos: Iffat Tahimd Fatema, humanitarian public health promoter for Oxfam, in the Rohingya refugee camps, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Oxfam

Pages