Last time we visited Sister Samar's school was newly opened. Now, with new uniforms and plans for expansion, it is easy to see the work of Sister Samar and the staff at her school. She and I had a long chat about the challenges they face, not least funding, as well as the demand for what she is providing - education in Arabic, the language of the families who have been forced to make Ankawa their home.
This diocesan primary school is unique in that it teaches in Arabic, the language of the displaced families who send their children here. Coming to the end of its first year, and run by Sister Sama, this year we funded science equipment and IT provision to make the school legally compliant within the Kurdish school system. It currently has children from 4 to 9 years but will grow the school to take the current children all the way through to 12 from next year. It already has 25 first year children registered to enrol in the Autumn, when it will grow to over 80 children – its final expected school rota is planned to be 200 children. Arabic speaking children who cannot afford fees are often excluded from the Kurdish school system or struggle to keep up within it. As well as local Iraqi families, there are several Syrian refugee children who are admitted free due to their poverty.
Several issues remain here – one is teacher training, which would need to be in Arabic (although they do aim to teach English to the children). The second is in space and equipment. Whilst a private school, as the school grows it will need support for materials as the fees are kept low to ensure affordability for the
families and go towards building maintenance and teacher salaries – which are already way below the diocesan, and state average.
We will continue to support Al Bishara school through 2019 through a grant for materials to be provided for the new school year in October 2019. We hope to match last year’s grant of $8000 for the provision of science and IT equipment to make the school compliant. We also hope to bring books and other education support equipment to the school on our visit in July 2019.