Al Ekhlas Primary School has been a fixture in the west side of the Old City of Mosul for nearly 60 years. In 2016, the students and their families saw their dreams of a promising future crumble under the weight of war and destruction.
“I was very young when I studied in Al Ekhlas,” said 12-year old Ahmed Mohammed Ali, recalling his days at the school, “and I still can’t forget the days we were playing, drawing and studying together. When violent extremists took over Mosul we couldn’t go to the school because they were teaching us how to kill others.”
Following Mosul’s liberation, staff and teachers of Al Ekhlas were hosted by another school in 2017, where teachers worked in shifts to keep at least 400 children in class. The rest of the students, especially girls, were relocated to other schools, but not without consequences. Many students dropped out, largely due to the fact that they had to commute to these schools, and getting there was expensive.
UNESCO’s initiative to “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” through education does not only address the infrastructural damage, but also the psychosocial impact that the conflict left on children and young people.
Under the project “Voices of the children of Old Mosul”, funded by the Government of Japan, UNESCO is working to rebuild schools and empower teachers in their vital role in building peace in the minds of their students and wider community.
Al Ekhlas School represents a big part of the cultural heritage in Mosul. Every year we are receiving large numbers of children seeking registration at the school, especially with the ongoing rehabilitation of infrastructure and reconstruction of houses,
“Al Ekhlas School represents a big part of the cultural heritage in Mosul. Every year we are receiving large numbers of children seeking registration at the school, especially with the ongoing rehabilitation of infrastructure and reconstruction of houses,” said Principal Radhwan Abd Ahmed, recognizing that these efforts are encouraging the displaced to return to their city. But this good news requires action. “These increasing numbers cannot fit in the current schools that are already overcrowded, reaching up to 100 students per classroom. We hope that Al Ekhlas will be built again to give the opportunity to our children and encourage them to go back to school.”
UNESCO’s objective is to ensure that primary schools, run by the Ministry of Education in Mosul, are safe environments where students can flourish, learn and engage with each other with care and respect – contributing to the long-term prevention of violence and building tolerance and peaceful co-existence. A first milestone was reached in January 2020 when ARCO, Architecture and Cooperation, completed the design of Al Ekhlas. Students, parents and school administrators contributed their ideas for the design through a consultative process.