Building peace in the minds of men and women

Start of new school year in jeopardy for thousands of young people in Iraq, says UNESCO Director-General

Paris: 10 September. As the new school year begins in Iraq , Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s Director-General, is calling for urgent international mobilization in support of Iraq’s children and young people so that they can get back to school.

“The future of thousands of Iraqi children and adolescents - be they internally displaced or from host communities - is at stake, as they may be deprived of their right to education. It is time to stand up and act now: education cannot wait” said the Director-General, stressing that beyond the humanitarian tragedy, a hidden crisis for a whole generation of young Iraqis is looming.  

Schools in Iraq are due to reopen this month, but thousands of children and adolescents will not be able to enroll. Schools and temporary learning spaces are insufficient and more than one thousand existing schools serve as shelters that accommodate internally displaced families. There is also an alarming number of schools – more than 60 – now being used for military purposes.  

Iraq is a young country, with 50 per cent of its population under 20 years of age. The crisis directly affects more than 550,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) of school-going age. Many of them were unable to attend the public examinations last June and may not be able to enroll in the next academic year. In addition, many Kurdish students may not be able to go back to their schools because they are being used as shelters for IDPs.  

“Education must be amongst the priorities. We must think of the future of the young generation in Iraq. Education has the power to protect, to heal and to give hope. It enables young people to shape their future and to cope with adversity. It lays the foundation for lasting stability. For all these reasons, I call on the international community to mobilize and invest in education for the Iraqi people”, the Director-General concluded.  

As part of its response to the IDP crisis in Iraq, UNESCO is supporting adolescents and young adults’ access to quality education. It provides accelerated learning and catch up classes for students, whose education was interrupted due to the crisis, and assists in providing alternative learning opportunities to ensure the fundamental right to education. It also opens up higher education opportunities for IDPs aged 18-25. These activities are carried out with financial support from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.