Displaced Iraqi children languish in deprived schools

This story was originally posted by Al Jazeera

Hundreds of thousands of children face almost "impossible conditions" as they strive to learn in war-torn country.

By Mohammed Jamjoom

Baghdad, Iraq - In a climate that makes concentrating near impossible, and handbooks do not distract from the heat, dozens of Iraqi children are doing their absolute best to learn.

As they recite numbers written on a white board that is propped up by cinder blocks, students attending summer school at Baghdad's Al-Takya Al-Kasnazaniya camp for the internally displaced say classes are far tougher than they should be - and for reasons that have nothing to do with the curriculum.

"We used to live in our own neighbourhoods and it was like heaven," 12-year-old Murtada Taleb remembers. "We used to go to clean schools and these schools would have proper roofs."

Now, he and his classmates study inside a tent. During this record heat wave in Iraq, power outages are frequent and air conditioning has become a luxury - and on the day Al Jazeera visited, overheated students often used their workbooks to fan themselves.

Taleb, who along with his family fled Anbar province once ISIL took it over in April, is just one of the approximately 850,000 internally displaced school-aged children in Iraq. According to UNICEF, 650,000 of those kids have missed at least a year's worth of classes.

"If we were back home," Taleb tells me, as he points disapprovingly to his worn T-shirt and slippers, "I would wear a proper uniform to school - I would not dress like this. And we would not be living now in tents."

Teacher Jalal Badr Aziz says the situation is even worse here than it looks, that they do not have even the most basic requirements for the classrooms.

"We have 90 students in three different classes and only 30 textbooks were distributed," he says exasperatedly. "How can you teach 90 students with 30 books?"

Badr Aziz explains that 20 teachers should be working here now, but says a lack of funding has meant only five make it in everyday.

His wife, Abeer Shaaban, who is leading an English class in the adjacent tent, is also a teacher here. During her lesson, she expresses even more concern for the welfare of her students.

"We feel that this is a crime against those poor children," Shaaban tells Al Jazeera. "What did these children do to deserve such harsh conditions?

"They do feel a bit happier than before since at least they now have a makeshift school to go to, but these schools lack the basic requirement to teach them adequately."

While the boys here worry the world has forsaken them, they are determined not to give up on their education.

Despite support from UNICEF and other aid groups, even a brief glance around quickly underscores just how dire the situation is and how few the resources are. Twelve-year-old Mohammed Aidan says much, much more is needed.

"It is very, very hot, the electricity comes and then it goes, and sometimes it just doesn’t come at all," he says.

Continue reading the full article on Al Jazeera

While the boys here worry the world has forsaken them, they are determined not to give up on their education [Mohammed Jamjoom/Al Jazeera]