Duhok, 3 March 2014, In another major initiative to respond to the Syrian refugees' crisis in Iraq and to help provide decent learning opportunities for the thousands of young people in the camps, UNESCO and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) held today a ceremony to announce the official opening of the Derek Secondary School, the first secondary school for Syrian refugees in Domiz Camp in Duhok.
"Now, hundreds of youth have again the opportunity to come together, to explore and to learn", stated UNESCO representative to Iraq and country office director Axel Plathe, who praised the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for its special efforts in supporting education within the refugees community. Addressing the students, Mr. Plathe called to "take advantage of this opportunity, since education will make you stronger, more in charge of your destiny and better equipped to face the challenges of your life".
Also speaking at the event, the director of education in Duhok, Abed Yousef, stressed the commitment of KRG and the Ministry of Education "to support education for refugees in Derek as we did in schools that have been opened previously by providing them with supplies and opening technical courses and sports activities for students".
Representing IRC, country director Emily Dakin considered that "this school is a true example of organizations and agencies coming together to support this population of Syrian refugees in northern Iraq, as well as an example of the KRG’s continued support for the Syrian population within its borders", praising UNESCO, KRG, Stichting Vluchteling, the Asfari Foundation and Hess Corporation, for making this initiative possible.
A young student speaking on behalf of his colleagues during this event reflected his generation biggest concerns in his speech: "We hope to complete our study of post-secondary with your help by the allocation of seats in our universities and institutes in the region to prepare a strong educated generation and a generation which is based on well-established principles to contribute positively to the building of a our community", he said.
Attended by students, parents, teachers along with members of the international humanitarian community and civil society organizations, this event also featured a school tour and several student activities.
With its nine classrooms, a library, a science laboratory, administration rooms and water and hygiene facilities, and the capacity to host 600 students, the new school offers a direct and very efficient response to the educational needs of Syrian children and youth in the camp. It also constitutes a permanent solution to provide a quality formal education through certified teachers selected from the residents of the camp, and trained by UNESCO on modern academic trends and psychological support formalities for children in crisis.
The humanitarian situation in Syria continues to deteriorate at a rapid pace, leading to massive displacement and mounting refugee outflows to neighbouring countries. Around 220,000 Syrians entered Iraq since the beginning of the turmoil, with 97 per cent concentrated in the three Northern governorates of Duhok, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah.
UNESCO and IRC are among a wide group of international organizations partnering together to respond to the various humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees in Iraq. As a lead organization in education, UNESCO is prioritizing projects and activities that aim to improve access to secondary and vocational education and training, literacy and life skills in both urban areas and camp settings. UNESCO plans to broaden its involvement in ten camps through the establishment of additional secondary schools focusing in particular on the training of teachers, the organization of catch up classes for out-of-school children and the launch of ICT and entrepreneurship courses for youth.