An Iraqi schoolgirl, Manar Mahmoud, is eager to return to school for the first time since the Islamic State overran Mosul in June 2014.
The 13-year-old girl and her classmates are celebrating the much-anticipated arrival of their new textbooks and are wasting no time resuming their education after several years of falling behind, Reuters reported.
“We want to learn, we do not want to be ignorant,” said Manar, as she and her classmates were gathering in the courtyard before classes.
According to the report, the Sunni Muslim militants forced teachers to continue to work as the war raged on, though many parents removed their children from school in order to protect them from being brainwashed about terrorism and the militant group’s extremist beliefs.
Mahmoud recalled what life was school life under Islamic State: “They were bad. They used to teach us about jihad (holy war), how to fight.” She continued, “Our families prevented us from coming to school.”
They searched the library and teachers’ rooms, stripping them of valuables and removing books they disapproved of. A room full of Arabic-language teaching books survived — the militants had tried to shoot open the lock but gave up.
As attendance at the girls’ school plummeted, the militants eventually closed it down, but left the building intact, unlike most other public buildings.
The girls are not only relishing in the ability to return to school but also resume studying subjects that were previously forbidden by the Islamic State, such as English and Biology.
Having most of them missed almost three years of education, the school is now facing a series of challenges with vastly different knowledge levels among the 150 girls. In light of the issue, the school’s director said: “We are seeking more guidance from the ministry of education but not a single official has visited us yet.”
As it stands, the school is operating without running water or electricity, and the teachers are working without pay until the government steps in and resumes their salaries.
“God willing, we will try to help the children and the pupils forget the suffering they have experienced,” said teacher Umm Mohammed.
Reuters also reports that rounds of artillery and fighting can still be heard within earshot of the schoolhouse as government troops continue to battle the Islamic State’s last strongholds in Mosul.
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