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Iraqi schoolgirls back in classroom after nearly three years


REUTERS

Iraqi schoolgirls back in classroom after nearly three years

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MOSUL – Iraqi schoolgirl Manar Mahmoud is eager to resume classes after years of life under Islamic State in Mosul, ignoring the nearby rattle of artillery fire.

The 13-year-old is back at her old school in the eastern part of the city, which Iraqi forces recaptured from the Sunni Muslim militants in January.

Within earshot, fighting is still raging. Just across the River Tigris, government troops, artillery and aircraft are attacking Islamic State’s last stronghold in the Old City in western Mosul.

But with the first new textbooks having arrived last week, teachers are wasting no time restarting classes. The girls have years of catching-up to do: most of them stopped going to school after the militants overran Mosul in June 2014.

“We want to learn, we do not want to be ignorant,” said Manar, assembling in the courtyard with other girls before classes.

The militants had forced the teachers to continue working but most parents pulled out their children, fearing they would be brainwashed with an extreme version of Sunni Islam.

“They were bad. They used to teach us about jihad (holy war), how to fight,” said Manar, wearing the school uniform with a white veil. “Our families prevented us from coming to school.”

With little interest in girls’ education, the militants quickly gave up, closing the school but not destroying it as they did with other public buildings.

They searched the library and teachers’ rooms, stripping them of valuables and removing books they disapproved of. A room full of Arabic-language teaching books survived – the militants had tried to shoot open the lock but gave up.

In another room are new books on subjects like English and Biology that were halted by IS.

The pupils are keen. “I’m very happy,” said eight-year old Sara Umar. “It’s better to go to school in the morning instead of staying at home.”

The biggest challenge is that the 150 girls enrolled at the school have different knowledge levels after missing almost three years of education. (Reuters)

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