It’s a happy day for Omar. He’s excited that he’s going to school. Or rather, that school has come to him.
The 11-year-old, who’s from Kobani in Syria, now lives in the small township of Kawa, south of Erbil. He’s been out of school for three years.
But that changed recently when a mobile school was set up on vacant land in Kawa, next to the soccer pitch. Two small tents have been pitched and are filled with children sitting on bright plastic chairs.
With a generous contribution from the German Development Bank (KfW), UNICEF partner INTERSOS has equipped a mobile school with supplies and teachers in order to provide learning opportunities for out of school children in to two locations in Erbil in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
The pilot programme began in late July and is scheduled to run until the end of September. The children participate in two hours of education, three times a week. The initiative is designed to get them back into formal education. “Now I can meet my friends, and study,” Omar says. “I want to become a doctor so that I can do surgery and help people.”
There are just over 239,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq. UNICEF estimates that 64,000 Syrian children have had their education disrupted.
“There are a combination of reasons why children are missing school,” says INTERSOS Education Officer Marco Fuduli. “School might be too expensive or too far away, or there may not be an Arabic language programme.”
Omar is one of 270 children who are back in the classroom after a long break and he’s excited about the opportunity. “I like this school,” he says. “It’s fine for us. I don’t have a favourite subject, I want to learn them all.”
The school employs the Italian Montessori method of teaching, which is based on interactive learning and play. It operates in two daily shifts with teachers hired from the community. The programme identifies children with special needs and also provides information for families on how to enroll their children in formal schooling when the academic year starts in the fall.
Rueda, 13, is also enjoying the novelty of sitting in a classroom. She’s been out of school for two and a half years and her sister has been helping her with reading and writing.
“School was too far away, and too expensive for my family,” says Rueda, who has ten brothers and sisters. “I want to become an engineer, so I feel very excited and joyful to be here. And I’ve made new friends.”