Iraqi government contemplates major changes to schools for IDPs in Kurdistan region

Iraqi government contemplates major changes to schools for IDPs in Kurdistan region
The Iraqi ministry of education allegedly plans to close all its schools for internally displaced persons in the Iraqi Kurdistan region.    
3 min read
06 December, 2022
A school for Iraqi IDPs in Sulaimaniyah city. [Dana Taib Menmy/TNA]

Iraq's ministry of education allegedly plans to shut down all its schools for the Iraqi internally displaced persons (IDPs) north of the country, upsetting pupils and their families as most of the Arab families cannot return to their original places due to security reasons.

Thousands of Iraqi families, mostly Sunnis, were displaced to the Kurdistan region provinces after the Islamic State(IS) took over nearly a third of Iraq's territories in 2014.  Although Iraq announced the defeat of IS in 2017, the IDPs are unwilling to return to their original places due mainly to the lack of basic public services and concerns over being targeted by the Iran-backed Shia militias.

Ebrahim Namis al-Jibouri, the Iraqi minister of education, recently said in a leaked video clip that closing the ministry’s representations in northern Iraq, tasked with supervising special schools built for the children of Iraqi IDPs, will be his ministry's 'priority'.

The minister has also said students should return to their original homes in Anbar, Salahuddin, and Mosul provinces after the current educational year's end. 

There are three representations of the ministry in Erbil, Sulaimaniyah and Duhok provinces of the Kurdistan region.

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The video clip went viral on social media platforms and led to wide condemnations by the families of the students as well as by Sunni politicians. 

Consequently, Haider Faruq, spokesperson of the Iraqi education ministry reportedly said the ministry does not intend to totally close down all schools for the IDPs but rather wants to "regulate" the staff of its representations in the Kurdistan region. On Monday al-Jibouri appointed Iraqi journalist Karim al-Said as the ministry's new spokesperson. 

However, Mohamed Nuri Abdrabah, an Iraqi lawmaker from Nineveh, posted a formal document of the ministry in which al-Jibouri has reportedly ordered the ending of services of all teachers related to the ministry's representations in the three Kurdish provinces of Erbil, Sulaimaniyah and Duhok. 

Abdrabah vowed to stop the ministry from carrying out its decision.

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"The Iraqi federal ministry of education is running those schools for the IDPs in the Kurdistan region, and it is the only decision-maker regarding the destiny of the schools. Up to now, we did not receive any formal document regarding their closure," Saman Siwaily, spokesperson of the education ministry of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), told The New Arab in a brief interview over the phone.

"We have made all facilitations for those schools over the past years in terms of providing buildings for them," Siwaily added.

Several students, who were studying at one of those schools in Sulaimaniyah city, as well as their parents, speaking on condition of anonymity to TNA, said they are concerned about plans to close the schools and stressed that they do not want to return to their original places. 

Al-Jibouri on Saturday met with Shakhawan Abdulla, the second deputy speaker of the Iraqi parliament. "Both sides stressed on the need for kicking off a process of an accurate reorganization of the ministry's schools for the IDPs in the {Kurdistan} region," read a statement posted on al-Jibouri's official Facebook page after the meeting.