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Building the Future: Girls go back to School in Ramadi, Iraq

When fighting stops, there is so much to do. During the battle for Ramadi last year, the Al-Rajaa school for girls was on the front line. It suffered huge damage. The school director, Zainab Faisai, has worked there for 36 years, and she was one of the last to leave.

“Last year we were working in a primitive destroyed school. All of us, teachers and students, were psychologically exhausted,” Zainab remembers.

“It was very painful for us to see the destruction. We wish we could erase all the violent times we went through from our memories.”

Perhaps those memories can never be erased, but Zainab and her dedicated team of teachers were determined to re-open their school. Over the past few months, the ICRC has been working to help Al-Rajaa get up and running again. When an ICRC team first visited the school, they found not just major destruction, but huge danger as well.

“There were mortars falling from the second floor,” explains head of delegation Katharina Ritz. “There were rockets which were found on the ground.” 

“When we first assessed the school the whole second floor was not accessible anymore, there were explosives and weapon contamination.”

ICRC demining staff removed the unexploded ordinance, and the builders and decorators got to work. Across Iraq, conflict has taken its toll on the education system. As building engineer Omar Khaled explains, Al-Rajaa is by no means the only school in need of repair.

“Schools are not fit to receive students,” he says. “We had to create temporary schools in caravans, which don’t have electricity, cooling systems, or heat insulation. They are not the same as properly built schools which have walls and roofs.”

And so when Al-Rajaa was re-opened, it was a happy day for everyone. The school is home to almost 600 students, and it is the only school in Ramadi to provide a science curriculum for girls. The enthusiasm is infectious, because, as student Duha Hareth points out, a renovation like this improves much more than the physical surroundings.

“We were not motivated to study, we didn’t have enough teachers,” she smiles. “Now, the teachers are back and we are motivated to study.”

“Our teachers were stressed, but they are better now.”

Al-Rajaa is the ICRC’s first access to education project in Iraq, but it won’t be the last. For now though, ICRC delegate Maria Carolina can allow herself a quiet moment of satisfaction at what has been achieved.

“For us it’s a huge pleasure not only to see the girls back in session in school but to also see the teachers and everyone investing in their education,” says Maria.

“Of course girls in most countries around the world face many barriers to accessing education so you can only imagine if you’re displaced and sitting in a classroom where you don’t have books or chairs or walls or windows, how many extra challenges you face to study.”

The girls of Al-Rajaa school face many more challenges in the future too, not least, supporting their country as it, hopefully, emerges from conflict. A good education, in a school where they can learn in peace and safety, will help them meet that challenge.

 Download this footage from ICRC Video Newsroom

 www.icrcvideonewsroom.org

 For further information, please contact:

 Iolanda Jaquemet, ICRC Geneva +41 79 447 37 26, Sarah Alzawqari, ICRC Baghdad  +964 790191 69 27.

 To find out what the ICRC is doing to support people in Iraq, go to:

 https://www.icrc.org/en/where-we-work/middle-east/iraq

  Follow the ICRC on facebook.com/icrc and twitter.com/icrc

 

 SHOTLIST

Location: Al-Raja School, Ramadi, Iraq

0:00 – 0:09 WS damaged school exterior

0:09 -  0:16 Aerial drone shot damaged school

0:16 – 0:24 Drone shot school, builders working on it

0:24 – 0:31 Interior damaged classroom, pan to corridor

0:31 – 0:55 Soundbite school director Zainab Faisal (original Arabic) “Last year we were working in a primitive destroyed school. All of us, teachers and students, were psychologically exhausted. It was very painful for us to see the destruction. We wish we could erase all the violent times we went through from our memories.”

 0:55 – 1:00 Interior damaged classroom, look down to ground floor.

1:00 – 1:08 tracking shot damaged classroom

1:08 – 1:25 Soundbite Katharina Ritz, ICRC head of delegation (original English) “There were mortars falling from the second floor, there were rockets which were found on the ground. When we first assessed the school the whole second floor was not accessible anymore, there were explosives and weapon contamination.”

1:25 – 1:30 Damaged classroom ceiling

1:30 – 1:36 tilt down damaged ceiling to worker

1:36 – 1:41 three builders

 1:41 - 2:12 Soundbite Omar Khaled, Engineer, Anbar Education Directorate (Original Arabic) “Schools are not fit to receive students. We had to create temporary schools in caravans, which don’t have electricity, cooling systems, or heat insulation. They are not the same as properly built schools which have walls and roofs.”

 2:12 – 2:18 Crowds of girls going into school

2:18 – 2:22 Girls sitting at desks

2:22 – 2:27 Girls raising hands

2:27 – 2:31 Girls and teachers in corridor

2:31 – 2:34 Young woman walks past

 2:34 – 2:50 Soundbite student Duha Hareth (Original Arabic) “We were not motivated to study, we didn’t have enough teachers. Now, the teachers are back and we are motivated to study. Our teachers were stressed, but they are better now.”

 2:50 – 2:55 Student reading lesson to teacher

2:55 – 3:00 Students from back, teacher at blackboard

 3:00 – 3:29 Soundbite ICRC delegate Maria Carolina (Original English) For us it’s a huge pleasure not only to see the girls back in sessions but to also see the teachers and everyone investing in their education. Of course girls in most countries around the world face many barriers to accessing education so you can only imagine if you’re displaced and sitting in a classroom where you don’t have books or chairs or walls or windows, how many extra challenges you face to study.”

 3:29 – 3:35 Exterior students saluting flag

3:35 – 3:47 aerial drone shot girls gathered outside school

 Length: 3:47

Format: HD H264 mov

Producers: Amal Hussein, Sara Alzawqari

Camera: Anmar Qusay

ICRC ref: AV715N_Ramadi_school_iraq

Date: 01.11.2017

Copyright: ICRC access all


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