Iraqi teachers condemn Baghdad decision to shut down IDP schools

Like thousands of Iraqi teachers and students, Sana Abbas, a displaced Iraqi citizen from Baiji prefers to stay in the Kurdistan Region and continue working as a teacher than risk her life by returning to her hometown which lies in ruins after months of intense fighting between government troops and ISIS militants. 

"I cannot return to Baiji since it has been devastated," Abbas said. "There is also no security there." She said the stability and calm in Sulaimani city helped her start a new life in the Kurdistan Region. Abbas is one of nearly 1,500 teachers and education workers on Iraqi government payroll now residing in Sulaimani and unwilling to go home for safety reasons. 

Iraq’s Education Ministry decreed last year that all schools set in the Kurdistan Region for displaced Iraqis would be closed in September. Abbas says that she and her colleagues are dismayed by this Iraqi decision, adding that she and many like her still remain determined to stay on in the Kurdistan Region. 

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has even threatened to stop paying salaries to any teachers that refuse to return to their home provinces. "I do not want to return," Mohammed al-Jabouri, the father of an Arab displaced student in Sulaimani, said."No problem has been made for me since I came to the Kurdistan Region." 

Jabouri fears the future of his children is unclear in their hometown. "When I am here I feel I am a human being, I feel safe. I never want to return a place to witness the killing of my kids before my eyes," Jabouri said. He added that the threats from the Iraqi government will not change his mind. "Let my kids become illiterate,” Jabouri said. “I want a safe life." 

An estimated 334,000 Arab students study at 376 Arab schools in the Kurdistan Region, of which 100 are in Sulaimani, 104 in Erbil and 172 in Duhok. Iman Haider, the representative of Iraq’s Education Ministry in Sulaimani said they have been in talks with Baghdad to resolve the issue. Haider said they want schools opened for the 2018-2019 school-year because most of the Arab students in Sulaimani won’t be able to return home. 

"In the coming days we will hold a conference in Sulaimani to put forth the implications of shutting down IDP schools in the Region." Haider told Rudaw. He revealed that Iraq’s education minister is expected to visit the Kurdistan Region and meet with his Kurdish counterpart to address the issue.



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