“Despite our situation, I study hard as it is the only way to have a better life”: How education and psychological support are helping students in Northern Iraq

Published: Oct 12, 2022 Reading time: 4 minutes
Students enjoying their time between classes with their friends
© Foto: Majd Zaghir

It is the summer holiday, the time when students rest and wait for the next school term to begin, go out with their families and friends and have fun. But is it like this for all students? 

For Sima, 14 years old, and many children like her who live in Barsima camp for Syrian refugees in Northern Iraq, summer holiday usually means sitting at home most of the time or going to friends’ houses, “We don’t have any amusement park or public park to go to, so we stay home most of the time,” she said.

This isn’t an ideal situation, and it puts extra pressure on children who have already faced conflict, displacement, poverty, and a pandemic. All of this affects their psychological health and their academic level “some students lose their concentration even if I was talking directly to one of them, also they find it hard to follow the lessons and study at home,” said Yassin Ghazzal, an Arabic teacher from Al-Anbar in Iraq, describing the hard conditions for both Syrian refugees and Iraqi children.

In light of this and to support all the efforts to improve the state of education in Iraq, People in Need (PIN), as a part of the consortium funded by the UNICEF fund Education Cannot Wait (ECW), and in partnership with Save the Children, INTERSOS and RWANGA; started remedial and catch up classes in four schools in northern Iraq including recreational and PSS activities.

Those classes and activities served as a link between the student and the school, which helped them to improve their academic level, revise what they had been taught before, and be ready for the next school year.

It also plays an important role for the teachers who can be closer to the students and give them more time than the usual school classes, which helps to improve the relation between them and the students. “Because of their hard situations; teachers need to be sensitive to students needs share with them their joy and sadness and play with them, so they trust the teacher and listen to what we say,” said Shaker Abdulrahman, a math teacher in the camp’s school where he also lives. “Thanks to the classes organized by PIN, we have more time to dedicate to students who are struggling in the subject as it is a sensitive matter for them to speak in the school classes.”

To integrate the teachers’ efforts, it is necessary to have psychological support and entertainment activities for the students to make the summer classes more appealing. In helping the students to overcome the hardships in their personal lives, the children will be able to focus on their studies and be more present in the classes. “The PSS activities are important for the students as they don’t have any of them during the school year,” said Yassen. “Students come to me and ask me if the activities can continue throughout the whole year. They are really enjoying it, and they attend from the first day until now without skipping a single class.”

While having the PSS lessons, students listen to motivating stories that help them in their lives as they are listen with both their hearts and minds. “I remember in one of the stories, it will always stay in mind, it was about how you can find good things even in the hardest conditions. I felt like it was speaking about me,” Sima said. “Also, the teacher told us about one of his students in the camp who is studying medicine now, I want to be like him. Despite our situation, I study hard as it is the only way to have a better life.”

Thanks to UNICEF’s Education Cannot Wait fund and our partners in the consortium, Save the Children, INTERSOS and RWANGA, we were able to help Sima, Yassin, Shaker and many other students and teachers in Northern Iraq to support their efforts to build a better future. 

Autor: Majd Zaghir

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