The future of Iraq hinges on the education of its youth and the preservation of its cultural heritage, the head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) affirmed during an official trip to the war-torn Middle Eastern country.
“Education is a human rights imperative for you and for all Iraq – it is also a development imperative and a security imperative,” Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, said yesterday during a visit to the Baharka Camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs), near the city of Erbil, in the country’s Kurdistan region.
“Education is a hidden crisis and I have come to stand with you, to support you, to reject the terrible human rights violations you have suffered.”
Since January, some 1.8 million people – half of them children – have been displaced in Iraq, and hundreds of thousands more have been forced to find shelter in unfinished buildings, public spaces and informal settlements. In total, there are 5.2 million Iraqis in need of assistance amid rising instability across the country.
According to UNESCO, as the IDP crisis continues to stretch Iraq’s resources, Iraqi children are increasingly deprived of access to education, potentially jeopardizing their futures. Many Iraqi youths, for instance, were unable to attend the public examinations held in June 2014.
During her visit to Baharka, Ms. Bokova marked the beginning of construction on the camp’s second UNESCO school, slated for completion in December 2014, and one of four UNESCO-backed schools to be built in three IDP camps throughout the country.
She noted that education would provide displaced youth with “a sense of normalcy, stability and hope for the future” and “minimize the risk of vulnerability resulting from violence, abuse or ideological manipulation.”