Carolina is 16 years old and a member of the choir of the Mar Elias Church, Ankawa. She’s a local; this was her church before the fall of Mosul and the arrival of the IDPs. She pops in and out of Fr Douglas’s office, helps out with the centre and seems to be friends with everyone. She makes a fantastic tour guide as she shows us around, politely asking whether we can enter a classroom, encouraging us to take photographs. With her smile, free-flowing laughter and confident English, she seems like a role model for many young Iraqi Christians.
Except that she does not go to school.
She has the right. She has the school: the excellent Diocesan school is opening a sixth form in September which would be perfect for her. There is even a Catholic University now open in Ankawa, offering degrees from Business through ICT to Medicine.
“Why don’t you go?” We ask, astounded. It seems to be such a loss of potential.
“My father thinks that Irbil will be next. We are going to move to America.”
She shrugs. “Next year. Maybe.”
“So what do you do now, instead of school?”
She shrugs again. “Gym?”
We talk to a young member of the teaching staff at the Diocesan school. She confirms that many students share her views. “I encourage them to stay,” she says, “But so many of them do not see the point. They have no hope. I, however, will stay.”
As the situation in the centres becomes more permanent and as the IDPs look to the future, education is one way of offering hope. As Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
We will be launching a new project to encourage education on 10.6.15.