In ISIS-held Mosul, children stay away from school

Children of a Christian family, who fled from the violence in Mosul stay at a school in Erbil, in Iraq's Kurdistan region June 27, 2014.

Children of a Christian family, who fled from the violence in Mosul stay at a school in Erbil, in Iraq’s Kurdistan region June 27, 2014.

While the school year officially began on Sep. 9, many children in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-held Iraqi city of Mosul are staying at home.

While schools in Iraq’s second largest city are still in operation, with a new hardline approach to education set in place by ISIS, feelings of fear, uncertainty and resistance by parents has resulted in low attendance, the Associated Press reported.

Part of ISIS’s core strategy is to establish administration over lands that it controls to project an image of itself as a ruler and not just a fighting force.

In parts of Syria under its control, the group now administers courts, fixes roads, checks on local trading standards, and even polices traffic.

In Mosul, classes about history, literature and Christianity have been “permanently annulled,” certain pictures have been torn from textbooks, and patriotic songs have been declared blasphemous.

“The majority of Mosul residents refused to send their children to school,” says Abu Mohammed, 27, of Mosul, Arab academic publication al-Fanar Media reported on Sunday. “The classes should have resumed but no schools were open and nobody attended.”

In its Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, the group scrapped subjects such as philosophy and chemistry, and fine-tuning the sciences to fit with its ideology.

Extreme manifesto

In an education manifesto, ISIS said schools should “decrease ignorance, spread religious sciences, resist corrupt sciences and curricula and replace them with righteous Islamic curricula.”

But regardless of whether any students who are attending school under the ISIS regime – and whether any teachers can work with reportedly irregular salaries – many worry that their “Islamic State educational certificate” will not carry an esteemed reputation outside of ISIS’s areas of control.

“Students are afraid, first of all that nobody will recognize the certificate they will get under Islamic State rule,” on Mosul resident quoted by al-Fanar said. “My 18-year old son refuses to go to take exams which nobody will recognize.”

In the Sept. 5 statement posted across Mosul, the “caliph,” al- Baghdadi, calls upon professionals in Iraq and abroad “to teach and serve the Muslims in order to improve the people of the Islamic state in the fields of all religious and other sciences.”

Gender-segregated schools are not new to Iraq, which legally prohibits co-ed classes beyond age 12, with some segregating from a much younger age. However, in Mosul, the new guidelines declared that teachers must also be segregated, with men teaching at boys’ schools, and women teaching girls.

Students also face hardships elsewhere across Iraq amid growing pressure to cater to more than 1.8 million people displaced by the militants’ advance. Nationwide, the school year has been delayed by a month, because many schools have been converted into makeshift shelters for displaced people from regions seized by the Islamic State group. In Baghdad alone, 76 schools are occupied by displaced Iraqis, al-Hassan said.

“All of this has a serious impact on the psychology of the students,” she added. “We want to approach this subject in a way that boosts the confidence and spirit of the students and helps them to understand what is happening in the country without instilling them with fear.”

For residents in Mosul and other areas now ruled by the militant group, fear is unavoidable.

The education statement put out by the militants in Mosul ends with a chilling reminder of its willingness to use brutal force. “This announcement is binding,” it concludes. “Anyone who acts against it will face punishment.”

 
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