Mo­sul school­girls aim to catch up on lost years

Muscat Daily - - NA­TION -

Mo­sul, Iraq - De­spite hav­ing fallen three years be­hind their peers else­where in Iraq, it’s been mostly smiles all around for the girls at Mo­sul’s Trablus school since it re­opened its dam­aged gates af­ter the ex­trem­ists fled.

With a blast from her whis­tle to sig­nal the end of re­cess, a su­per­vi­sor in a black robe and white head­scarf called the teenage girls back to class, dur­ing a re­cent visit to the school. The girls chat­ted all the way back to the class­rooms, each packed with an av­er­age of 90 pupils.

In late May, the school be­came the first to re­open in west­ern Mo­sul, as Iraqi forces pressed a sec­tor-by-sec­tor cam­paign that would fi­nally this month ex­pel the Is­lamic State group from the whole of the coun­try’s sec­ond city. Sev­eral other schools have fol­lowed suit.

“[Un­der IS], we had 27 pupils. Now they num­ber 650,” said Ni­had Jassem, an ad­min­is­tra­tive em­ployee at the school in the Mo­sul al Ja­dida dis­trict.

Its shrap­nel scarred metal gates have been cov­ered with sheets and blan­kets, shat­tered win­dows let in the rag­ing sum­mer heat, the walls are cracked, wa­ter and elec­tric­ity were only re­stored on Wednes­day, the teach­ers have not been paid, and the school has a se­vere short­age of books - “But we’re happy!” in­sisted Jassem.

Af­ter three years un­der IS rule, “we want to de­velop, we want to be civilised again. These girls have a fresh chance,” she said. “Their fu­ture was about to be de­stroyed for­ever.”

At the next re­cess, the girls, aged be­tween 13 and 15, go back to chat­ting and gig­gling in the cor­ri­dors or out­side in rare spa­ces in the shade.

They all sport head­scarves, at times with a broach or bow at- tached, some wear­ing makeup and a small num­ber in the niqab full-face veil. “We cater to ev­ery­one here,” Jassem said.

“We have a mis­sion. I want them (the girls) to suc­ceed,” said Iman Yussef, a teacher of 26 years stand­ing, ten of them at Trablus school.

Un­der IS rule, teach­ers were forced to show up or face ar­rest by its re­li­gious po­lice.

“Many just ran away but those with nowhere to go had to come,” she said.

Bi­ol­ogy, his­tory, ge­og­ra­phy and sci­ences were scrapped from the cur­ricu­lum, leav­ing only stud­ies on Is­lam, and the Ara­bic and English lan­guages.

“We don’t talk about those times any more. It’s like a wound that hasn’t healed, so we don’t touch it,” said Shada Sham­maa, who teaches Ara­bic at the school.

“In any case, we are not to­tally rid of IS. Some of the girls may have fam­ily mem­bers in IS.”


Iraqi girls peak out from be­hind the door­way of a class­room at a school in west Mo­sul on Thurs­day

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