Around 1.5 million people in Iraq are refugees or internally displaced people, women, men and children who struggle every day to meet their basic needs and access essential services. While finding shelter and ensuring food for these people are obvious immediate priorities, education should be part of the emergency response as well as of long-term plans.
Education is a basic right and it is crucial in restoring confidence to people who lost everything. Furthermore, education plays a major role in ensuring poverty reduction and in the empowerment of individuals who can contribute positively to their communities.
UNESCO, together with UNHCR, developed an Educational Support Programme targeting IDPs and refugee communities in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Mosul and Kirkuk.
The programme aims at increasing access to education and employment opportunities for vulnerable illiterates in rural and poor urban areas, specifically youth and women, while supporting national institutions and community-based organizations in delivering quality literacy courses and life skills training to IDPs and refugees.
With the implementation of its first phase, which entailed the establishment of 17 Community Learning Centres, the programme reached out to 1,294 direct beneficiaries and more than 6,000 indirect beneficiaries; numbers which exceeded the planned figures.
Building on the achieved results, the programme has been expanded to target 1,200 new beneficiaries aged 15 and over (60 percent women). The beneficiaries are IDPs and a small group of Syrian refugees (approximately 240) living in host communities in the selected regions of intervention.
Planned activities include the provision of capacity building for literacy facilitators and teachers, a full cycle of literacy courses, developed on the basis of the Iraqi national curriculum and delivered through the Community Learning Centres, and a strategic partnership with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Displacement and Migration to improve access to high-quality educational opportunities. Additional interventions will include the provision of basic life skills training, counselling and informal vocational training.
UNESCO will also mainstream peace-building into the educational programmes for youth to foster dialogue and reconciliation. The agency will launch the “Reading for Peace” campaign to support the development of Peace-Libraries in the Community Learning Centres.
All components have been designed with a view to support targeted beneficiaries in their transition to durable solutions, whether this will be repatriation/return to the country/community of origin, integration into the new community or resettlement in a third country.
The Director of UNESCO Office in Iraq, Ms. Louise Haxthausen, described the programme as “providing IDPs and refugees with real and tangible alternatives to take control of their own future, by offering the literacy skills they need to access better employment opportunities and by promoting their full integration into the host communities.”