Professor Amin Al-Jalili used to go to the University of Mosul every day to teach semantics. And then came COVID-19.
In response, the second largest university in Iraq, gradually closed its doors to over 40,000 students in February 2020. In a video interview, Professor Al-Jalili told UNESCO about his experience and his struggle to ensure that learning never stops.
“We have had experience dealing with crisis,” declared Al-Jalili, referring to the occupation of the city by violent extremists from 2014 to 2017. Finding a solution for the continuity of education during COVID-19 was key for the city’s revival. Al-Jalili is a firm believer that “knowledge and science are the only paths toward enlightenment” and his struggle to provide good quality education to his students despite all the difficulties lies at the heart of UNESCO’s initiative to Revive the Spirit of Mosul.
Transitioning to distance learning
Early planning was key, even though at the beginning of this process in March, Mosul had not yet registered any COVID-19 infections. Al-Jalili explained it was very difficult in the beginning, especially since many professors did not have experience in dealing with distance education.
The professors took it upon themselves to start the discussion and organize workshops to help prepare the continuity of education in the event of closure.
One of the important steps taken by the university was to collect data on e-learning by measuring the impact of the lectures conducted in order to help professors improve the quality of learning through this new and untested modality.
The outbreak of COVID-19 had an unprecedented impact on education worldwide. School and university closures impacted about 90% of the global student population, over one billion learners, during the initial peak of the pandemic in the spring.
Knowledge is the first means to revive the spirit of Mosul.
Doubling the efforts
Having to rely on free tools for distance education, required Amin Al-Jalili and other teachers at the University of Mosul to make sure there was good quality material, accessible to all. Despite the initial difficulty with the access to internet encountered by some of the students encountered in the early days of this set up, Al-Jalili generally found that some of the students were more reactive and responded quickly to this type to education.
The emergence of COVID-19 put the creativity of teachers and their implication at the test, especially in a city that has recently suffered massive destruction.
“Education for me is a moral message and a duty to ensure that students are given the education they deserve,” said Al-Jalili, “and knowledge is the first means to revive the spirit of Mosul. Our city is trying to rise from the rubble and we need to spare no effort to communicate the need and importance of science and knowledge because our greatest enemy is ignorance,” he said underscoring the importance of these efforts to reach every student.