photo: Eddy van Wessel


Monday, July 8, 2013

Build schools for all

Years ago I made a report about the problems of a primary school in Sulaymaniya. Most prominent was the fact that the school had too many pupils and had for that reason split them in groups: mornings and afternoons. Along with this there was a shortage of almost everything.

I was mortified: how can children be educated well when the foudation is too small – and that must be the case if you get so little time to learn all that needs to be learned. I thought then it was a temporary problem, caused partly by the many internally displaced kids from Arabic Iraq. I thought the problem would be solved soon if new schools were built en new teachers produced.

But as many as eight years later, the situation has not improved. Still Kurdistan does not have enough schools. Still kids come to school in at least two shifts. Still schools lack furniture and materials, and are housed in old buildings what are too cold in winter and too hot in summer.

Does the government not realize the importance of good education; and if so, why does it not build new schools? Yet at the same time many mosques do get built, and some of them are hardly used. Can’t the believers who want to pay for the building of a mosque be convinced the Qur'an also calls for education, so could they please build schools? 

Of course, since then many private schools have opened: Lebanese, British, American, French, Turkish and even German. Here children can be educated in better surroundings, and here the schooldays are not split up. One problem though: these schools generally are asking fees that many parents cannot afford.

So what is happening in this country that still holds on to some of its socialist heritage? Rich children get well educated, poor ones do not. That is capitalism in its worst form. In my country that does not even happen. Rich or poor, government schools or private – all children have the right to the same quality of education and the Dutch government is really strict on this.

Another problem is that in some of the schools children are hardly getting taught in their mother tongue anymore. They learn English and Turkish. How about the Kurdish that the Kurds have been fighting so desperately for to be able to speak, write and teach? How can it be that suddenly that is not important anymore?

I look at my new country with my foreign eyes, and I want to cry. To move forward, Kurdistan needs good education. That starts at the basic level. Yet in Kurdistan, that is where is does not start at all.

This blog was published in Kurdish in the daily Kurdistani Nwe

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