The first day of school can be a little intimidating for any child, but this year it was even more so for Ahmed, 11, and his sister Sevin, 12. The start of the academic year marked the first time they had been in a formal classroom for three years.
Ahmed and Sevin fled from Syria to Iraq with their parents in 2013. But their parents couldn’t afford to send them to school.
“School was too far away and we couldn’t pay for transport,” said their mother Azizar. “My husband can only get work as a day labourer, so he doesn’t work full time.”
That changed this summer when Ahmed and Sevin were able to attend a mobile school which came to their village in Shawis, on the outskirts of Erbil.
There are over 228,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq. UNICEF estimates that about 64,000 Syrian children in Iraq have had their education disrupted.
With a generous contribution from the German Bank for Reconstruction (KfW), UNICEF partner INTERSOS equipped a van and two tents with supplies and teachers in two locations in Erbil. Both mobile schools operated in two daily shifts, with teachers hired from the community, and aimed to bridge the gaps for children who’ve been out of school for a long time.
“Ahmed didn’t want to go to the mobile school at first, because he didn’t know anybody,” his mother said. “He felt alone because he didn’t have any friends, but he went and he’s comfortable now, and he made friends.”
“We played football together,” Ahmed says, “and I found out what is was like to be in school.”
After two months in the mobile school the children were ready for a formal classroom, and INTERSOS helped them to register at Bader Khan School in Shawis. The initial hurdle to the family, the cost of transportation, has been met by the programme and the children are picked up by bus.
October 1st was a big day for the family.
“I was nervous about the new environment at first, and I didn’t like it, but when I made friends that changed,” Sevin said. “Now I like everything about my new school. I want to become a teacher.”
“I’m studying very hard,” Ahmed says. “I like Arabic and music and I’m learning to play the tambour.”
“It was an exciting day,” Azizar said, “Because my children had been at home doing nothing, and now they will learn and becoming something in the future.”