Without school, children of Mosul feared lost to poverty, conflict

MOSUL: Ahmed Abdelsattar was 14 when IS swept into Mosul and declared a caliphate in 2014. Fearing he would be indoctrinated and sent to fight by the militants, his parents took him out of school.
Three years later, he sells ice cream at a refugee camp for internally displaced Iraqis. His family have lost their home and his father is too old for the manual labour positions at the camp, which means he is his family’s sole breadwinner.
Coupled with a shortage of teachers, books and supplies, the 17-year-old sees no reason to go to the makeshift schools set up in the Khazar camp near Erbil.
“Going to school is now useless. I am helping my family,” he said. He adds that it is too late for him anyway. Had his education not been interrupted, Abdelsattar would be graduating in a few weeks.
Abdelsattar is one of tens of thousands of children orphaned or left homeless by the war on IS and forced to work to support their families in Mosul, the militant’s last major city stronghold in Iraq.
Returning these children to school is a priority for Iraq to end the cycle of sectarian violence fuelled in part by poverty and ignorance, the United Nations says.
“Investment in education is urgently needed, without which Iraq could lose an entire generation,” said Laila Ali, a spokeswoman for the UN’s children agency Unicef.
“Children from different ethnicities and religions, in the same classroom, will promote a cohesive society and will get children to think differently.”
Even in the half of Mosul east of the Tigris River that has been retaken by Iraqi forces, where 320 of the 400 schools have reopened, Reuters interviewed dozens of children working as rubbish collectors, vegetable vendors or mechanics.
“I did not go to school because IS came and they would teach children about fighting and send them to fight,” says 12-year-old Falah by his vegetable cart in Mosul. — Reuters