A Hand of Hope: Students in Northern Iraq Receive Support to Lift Them up in Their Future Journey

Published: Jan 19, 2023 Reading time: 3 minutes
A Hand of Hope: Students in Northern Iraq Receive Support to Lift Them up in Their Future Journey
© Majd Zaghir

It is a cold winter day. The chilly wind whistles in the empty hallways and playground of Koya’s school in the Kurdistan region of Iraq while the newly planted trees are swaying with the wind. Seconds after the bell rings, the warmth spreads into the hallways and playground when the students leave their classrooms to play, run and sit by the new garden. Their laughter and energy bring life back to the school. 

Among them, is Sarhad, a 10-year-old Syrian refugee standing with some of his friends in the playground agreeing on the game rules. “He wasn’t like this at all,” Said Bjar Salah, a 33-year-old teacher from Koya and a facilitator with People in Need. “He was shy when he first joined the school and didn’t interact with any student or even his teachers.”

When Sarhad and his family fled Syria to northern Iraq in 2013, his mother was looking for a place they could settle in. Seeking a safe place was a priority, but ensuring her children get the right education was a must. His mother wanted her children to have a better life than the one they had, and that, in her mind, could only be achieved through education.

Despite being so young to remember his homeland, Sarhad still has nostalgia for a trip he did with his grandfather to the sea which was reflected in his drawings. “He draws very well. It was the gate I used to help him,” Bjar explained. “Sarhad has changed and developed a lot after the psycho-social support we provided him. Now he always initiates to present his work and participates with his friends.”


Bjar Salah, Bjar, a teacher from Koya and a facilitator with People in Need, reading for the children in one of the PSS sessions

To ensure the wellbeing of the students, PIN trained the facilitators on Psycho-Social Support (PSS) and Crisis Context training (TICC) so they can help the students overcome their traumas and difficulties after going through some hardships; like displacement, war or negligence. PIN also provided the schools with assisting kits that support both students and teachers. Additionally, they rehabilitated the classrooms in the school with new windows and doors, created segregated restrooms for the teachers and planted new trees in the school garden.

After the remedial classes this summer, the students’ marks have improved by around 70% in Arabic, maths, and Kurdish. Students who studied online have benefitted the most from this support,” said Bjar. Before the assistance, some teachers were paying for school supplies with their own money and giving them to the students as a gift. “I am a mum; it makes me sad seeing other children not being able to afford school supplies. Here, in the class, I treat them like they’re my own,” she concludes.

Thanks to the great fund from Education Cannot Wait (ECW) and the partnership with Save the Children, INTERSOS and Rwanga Foundation, People in Need can provide support to the schools in northern Iraq.


Author: Majd Zaghir.

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