More than half a million children in northern Iraq will be forced to miss the beginning of the academic year as hundreds of schools are still occupied by people fleeing the ongoing violence, Save the Children warns.
In Dohuk governorate alone, around 650 schools are still being used to host families displaced over the summer.
“These children have fled horrible violence and are living in extremely difficult conditions; it’s essential that we give them some form of normality and stability through schooling,” said Save the Children’s Iraq Country Director Tina Yu. “Despite the authorities’ best efforts, displaced children living in these schools as well as those from the host community risk missing out on weeks of valuable learning and falling behind their peers.”
Even after displaced families are relocated from the occupied schools, it will take weeks to get the schools back into a state appropriate for the school year to start.
Desks, chairs and other supplies are often damaged while being moved to make room for displaced families. Additionally, there’s a significant increase in the wear and tear on facilities such as bathrooms and common spaces being overused.
Until schools are ready to receive children, Save the Children is providing alternative learning spaces for displaced Iraqi children, children from the host community and Syrian refugees, as well as safe spaces for children to learn informally and play.
These spaces help ensure children continue to learn and socialise with others while out of the traditional educational environment. However, these cannot substitute formal schooling in the long term.
“We call on the international community to make the education of these children, who have already been through more than any child should have to bear, a top priority,” [name, country, CEO] said.
Save the Children has already helped more than 145,000 displaced Iraqis, including 79,000 Iraqi children this year.