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Children in Mosul Return to School After 3 Years Under ISIS Rule

A young girl writes in a notebook during a class at a school in the Wadi Hajar neighbourhood of Mosul, Iraq, in July 2017. The school reopened in the spring, yet teachers say they lack running water, electricity, and books. Despite having reopened, most windows in the school remain broken and other parts of the structure are still being cleaned and repaired.
Cengiz Yar/UNICEF

After US-backed Iraqi troops drove out ISIS from Mosul earlier this year, children have begun returning to school after three long years of occupation.

"None of us went to school when ISIS was here — we stayed at home," says Ali, who is in sixth grade. "It feels good to be back."

Take Action: All Children Around The World Deserve to Go to School

Often used as a military base by ISIS, schools are once again functioning as classrooms. Recently, children sat in damaged classrooms where walls once decorated with painted cartoon characters of Spongebob Squarepants and Aladdin are now smeared with black paint, according to NPR.

"Three years out of school is a long time, so it has affected their minds with all the pressure and the bad treatment,” an art teacher Ahmed Abdul Aziz al-Jabouri told NPR. “We want to free the children's minds from all those bad thoughts."

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Although teachers across the city are trying to rebuild and regain some sense of normalcy in their lives, a lack of school supplies such as library books, pens and pencils is making it difficult.

“We don’t have running water,” Samira Abdul Satar, the principal of a girls' school in the town of Bartella, told NPR. “ It’s a big school and there are no cleaners. We need the municipality or someone else to come and clean it, at least, and to bring desks to begin with.”

Read More: Mosul’s University Library Was Destroyed by ISIS. Now, Volunteers Are Bringing It Back Book-by-Book.

At Akha elementary school, remnants of war have been left behind. The damage from rocket-propelled grenades and mortars are visible and shrapnel holes have been covered up.

Since most parents had taken their children out of school, the Iraqi government has implemented a system where children could take classes and exams for the lost years.

As conflict and political violence continue across the Middle East, 13 million children are unable to attend to school, according to UNICEF. Countries with armed-conflict have impacted children’s education, unable to learn and acquire the necessary skills they need to build a better future.   

UNICEF’s “Education Under Fire” report found that an estimated 8,850 schools in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen are no longer able to be used either because of damage, they shelter displaced families, or they are occupied by parties in the conflict.  

In 22 countries affected by conflict, nearly 24 million children living in crisis zones are out of school, according to UNICEF. South Sudan is home to the highest proportion of children out of school (51%), followed by Niger coming in second (47%), Sudan (41%) and Afghanistan (40%).

Read More: A Bill to Fix The Education Crisis Has Become Law!

This is putting a generation of children at risk.

"School equips children with the knowledge and skills they need to rebuild their communities once the conflict is over, and in the short-term it provides them with the stability and structure required to cope with the trauma they have experienced.  Schools can also protect children from the trauma and physical dangers around them. When children are not in school, they are at an increased danger of abuse, exploitation and recruitment into armed groups,” UNICEF Chief of Education Jo Bourne said in a press release.

Global Citizen campaigns to support equal access to education and gender equality. You can take action to ensure that all children have the opportunity to get an education here.