New skills, new you — giving kids in Kirkuk, Iraq a place to grow
Children displaced by conflict from Hawija, and local children from Kirkuk spent every day of their summer holidays visiting a youth centre
Children displaced by conflict from Hawija, and local children from Kirkuk spent every day of their summer holidays visiting a youth centre in Kirkuk.
The youth centre is on the main street in downtown Kirkuk. Its walls are covered in a children’s drawing of flowers, trees, houses, beautiful nature, and drawings taken from their imaginations. The kids are in individual classrooms, divided by age, but boys and girls are together.
The youth centre opens its doors to over 3,200 young people who come to learn English, Arabic and Kurdish and enjoy theatre, art and drawing classes run by UNICEF’s partner Intersos. UNICEF supports this youth centre through a generous donation from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).
Zina is one of the teachers who works with the children. She explained that there were students who were too afraid to even pick up a pen and try writing when they first arrived.
They had experienced so much violence and conflict that it was difficult for them to function normally in non-stressful situations. Now, they help each other with their lessons and are happiest when they are learning new things.
It’s great to see the kids’ eyes shining when they’re mastering a new skill. I hope that all of these children have the chance to live normal lives their lives like other children in the world,
8-year-old Abdulrahman has been coming since here since the beginning of UNICEF’s activities in January 2017.
He spends most of the time in art class and learning English.
My favorite activity is drawing. I come here because I want to improve. Sometimes drawing helps us to express hidden feelings,
7-year-old Raja, is one of Abdulrahman’s close friends. He wants to become a painter. “I am coming to this centre to draw nature. I really love my teacher. She helps us and gives us new ideas,” he said.
For youths, there are courses in how to repair cell phones and tailoring. Adolescents are also encouraged to attend awareness raising sessions on early marriage and premenstrual syndrome.
Gender based issues such as early marriage, violence, and sexual education are of particular concern for displaced people, and the youth centre offers a safe space to receive information.
These courses aim to fill gaps left behind by a broken educational system and for displaced people living in camps or improvised shelters.
23-year-old Najmadin heard about the youth centre from friends. He completed a certificate at a technical institution, but is currently jobless. He is interested in working in a mobile phone service centre like Muhammed’s.
“When I finish with this course then I will find a phone store in order to provide them with services or will open a small service centre and then will improve it in the future,” he said.
The centre also provides courses to local and displaced young women. They attend tailoring classes, which will help them earn money for their families
10 year old Shahd currently comes to the youth centre to draw and play with friends. But she has longer term goals, and the youth centre can help her achieve them.
“I hope this centre always will be open, because it is very useful for us. I can see the difference between when I first came first and now. I have a plan that when I grow up, if this centre is open, I will participate in the tailoring course as well.”