Baghdad, 26 January 2020-To mark UN Education Day, partners from the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), UNESCO, UNICEF and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) visited Al Siraj primary school in Ninewa Governorate, on 25 January. They joined the Ninewa Directorate of Education (DoE), parents, teachers and pupils to renew their commitment to the importance of the right to education.
In a discussion with the school community, the partners thanked the DoE, teachers and volunteer staff, and considered the current challenges facing education in Iraq.. Al Siraj primary school opened just two months ago after repairs of the structure that was heavily damaged during the conflict with Da’esh/ISIL.
“Approximately 2.5 million children in Iraq are struggling to find adequate learning opportunities. The needs are particularly dire in former conflict areas where the shortage of safe school buildings and teachers continue to severely hamper children’s learning,” said Paula Bulancea, UNICEF’s Deputy Representative in Iraq. “Education can have a transformative effect on the life of a child, their community and the development of their country.”
Investing in education is an investment in Iraq’s future, agreed all partners. “It is important for us to join efforts and address the loss in human capital witnessed over the last three decades, so that Iraq can benefit from the powerful catalyst effects of education: helping combat poverty and inequality, improving health and wellbeing; and overcoming discrimination,” said UNESCO Representative in Iraq Paolo Fontani. “UNESCO remains committed to providing support to the education sector in Iraq, so that every Iraqi child can benefit from their right to learn.”
Monitoring conducted by UNAMI’s Human Rights Office indicates that children who were denied education while living in areas formerly controlled by Da’esh/ISIL, continue to face barriers accessing education. “In post-conflict Iraq, more efforts are needed to enable every Iraqi child full access to primary and high school education, so that no Iraqi child is left behind,” said Danielle Bell, Chief of UNAMI’s Human Rights Office. Many did not or will not complete high school. Several challenges specific to this community persist, with children having missed out on years of formal education, insufficient numbers of schools or accelerated learning programs, inadequate teaching hours, movement restrictions and access to civil documentation that enable school enrolment.
This month, WFP in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Ninewa Directorate of Education and partner Human Appeal launched the School Feeding Programme in the district of Tel’afar, distributing fresh meals every day to over 80,000 children, in over 200 schools. The meal is made up of fresh bread, cheese, fruit and water or fruit juice, to ensure the children have enough energy to start the school day.
“School Feeding can help facilitate access to school, increase enrolment and attendance rates and improve the nutritional status, health and cognitive development of children. In other words, school feeding programmes can help get children into school and stay there. Once children are in the classroom, these programmes help them to get the sufficient nutrition and energy to think, learn and grow,” said Abdirahman Meygag, WFP Iraq Representative.
At the end of the event, the school children planted a circle of greenery and flora in the center of their school ground, to symbolize community, environment, and a positive symbol for the future. “A strong sense of community and commitment towards providing better education to our children make a vast difference to the impact of any assistance we deliver,” agreed all partners. “We remain committed to promote an inclusive and equitable access to education to all children of Iraq.”
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.