15 pillars to better education in the Kurdistan Region

Loyal reader,

I know. Long time. My world is all about chasing deadlines and watching a little angel learn to take her first steps. My heart falls before her every fall. Watching her master the art of walking reminds me a lot about life. We stand. We fall. We make another attempt to stand. We fall. And if we don’t keep trying we will never be able to master its art- whatever art it is that we want to master.

Becoming a mother has changed my perspective on life, on people, on communities and even on governance. If I had one plea to make from the new government in the Kurdistan Region, just one request, without a second thought, with less than a blink, with one heart beat and one word, I’d say: Remember Education!

As our government is in transition with a new Prime Minister, hopes and expectations for change among people are high (actually, let me rephrase that: Amongst some people hopes are high… the majority are not expecting that much of a change. For better or for worse).

What should the new government do differently? Revolutionise the way our kids learn, we are doing it all wrong and if we continue only catastrophe awaits. If we decide to change paths then in ten years from now a new generation will be a completely different one; a better one! How? Maybe consider implementing these 15 pillars from a loyal citizen, who loves this country, loves its people and loves to see it prosper (yours truly).

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Photo: The Darling Beast- Raz Xaidan
  1.  Let’s start with an easy one. Employ dedicated and deserving teachers. This means no more ta’een when it comes to the education sector. Interview. Probation period. Contract. You do your job well, your contract is renewed. you don’t, your time is over. Simple. There is no fixed lifetime job when it comes to teaching.
  2. Thousands of companies work in Kurdistan. If the government has no budget for education- as we are told– then as part of their CSR companies should refurbish old schools or build new ones. There is a school shortage in the Region. Some schools have no bathroom for the kids, others don’t have a staff bathroom, some schools work on three shifts a day.  Children are not spending enough hours in the classroom everyday. also, some classrooms have 40 or 50 students. Are we purposely setting kids for failure. We have enough to build malls and towers, but not schools?
  3. Teacher Professional Development– whether we like to admit this or not, our teachers are not well qualified to teach. Harsh, bitter reality! On going, annual, training for school principals and teachers need to be conducted.
  4. Social workers in schools need to go through intensive training and start fulfilling their duties.
  5. Arts, music, health education (yes, including puberty), and sport need to be taken seriously in schools instead of being the ‘free’ class. Grades in those subjects matter,  we need to celebrate the arts. Schools play a role to discover hidden and shy talents. Add Kurdish dance to schools! Be creative! Not every child can sit behind a desk and write maths equations. We must come out of seeing every student the same- children learn differently, and schools must cater for different learning techniques.
  6. Public and private schools must teach English and Kurdish. Compulsory. At age 29, I still suffer from this. Primary school education in Kurdish is essential. A must. Kurdish children speak fluent English and Turkish, but can barely put sentences together in Kurdish.
  7. Kurdistani history needs to be taught not just through books, but every school child should have a field trip to Halabja, Erbil Citadel, and be introduced to the Kurdish Klash from a real Hawrami in Hawraman. History should be told through Peshmerga survivors in classrooms while children sit on the floor and listen.
  8. There must be a limit on the amount of classes each teacher teaches, quality is key.
  9. Teachers cannot be hired outside of school as private tutors. I don’t think this needs additional explanation. Or shall I explain?
  10. Vocational Training schools need to increase with higher quality education offering a variety of specialties. Not everyone needs to go to university, but a good alternative must be available.
  11. The curriculum cannot be embossed on stone. Social issues need to be openly taught, discussed and awareness to be raised. Issues that pertain everyday lives of students, and those apparent in society need to go back into the classrooms. Drugs, alcohol, social media use, violence against women, violence within the family, sexual harassment, animal rights, environmental awareness, early marriage and family planning need to be all learned at schools. We are still folding the male and female body parts section in human biology books– referring to them as the a’ayba sections. Dearest Prime Minister, I promise you education is not just maths and chemistry.
  12. Critical thinking is a life skill that does not exist in mainstream schools in Kurdistan. Word for word exam answers does not equate a healthy, happy, successful child.
  13. Interactive learning, group work, presentations and active learning should not be a privilege to special kids in special schools. every child in Kurdistan has the right to learn that way. Enough of learning off sentences by heart. We live in 2019, not 1902.
  14. Facilities and Services are needed. Teachers can’t teach without whiteboard markers. Students can’t learn without heaters. The education sector deserves the biggest budget, it is an investment for the future of Kurdistan. Oil will run out, buildings will fall and roads can be rebuilt, but future citizens, parents, employees and leaders cannot.
  15. If you’re a decision maker, you’re reading this, and you’ve reached this point (THANK YOU!) ask yourself if you are ready to place YOUR child in the closest public school to your house. If the answer is no, then you have on your shoulder a heavy responsibility. Good education, decent education learning, at the moment is only for the wealthy and upper middle-class citizens. This shouldn’t be the case. The best way to empower the poor, the vulnerable, the second-class citizen is by the quality of learning Kurdistan offers. My dearest, this means when it comes to education it is Kurdayati, not hsbayati. Put the right person, in the right place.

I’ve reached point number 15, and am feeling a little embarrassed to press the publish button to this blog, I have only spoke common sense. We are at the demographic window where half the population are young. A wrong turn now, at this critical time, means generations after us will pay the price.

Oh, one more point, reward the good teachers. The dedicated, the hardworking, the ones being bullied by their peers for putting in more effort, those who follow up with the bruised child, the teary child, the neglected child, those who teach with their heart. They deserve the biggest payroll of all other professions. The teachers who teach out of passion, not because they have a three month holiday every year.

Love from

My Nest in Kurdistan

Sazan,

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