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Just as Important as Food and Water

12th Emergency Pedagogy Mission in Northern Iraq


Since 2011, ongoing, armed violent conflicts in Syria and bordering regions have caused millions of people to flee. In particular children are victims of the fighting. Most of them have experienced unimaginable things and are barely able to process their experiences alone. Especially long-term effects, the so-called trauma related disorders, should not be underestimated. Manuela Roßbach, managing director at “Aktion Deutschland Hilft” also confirms that the traumata of the affected persons must be treated immediately, because only timely treatment can prevent long-term effects. For this reason, the Friends of Waldorf Education travelled for their first mission to the region of Kurdistan in 2013. Since then, many missions have taken place in northern Iraq, the twelfth ended last Friday.

In the meantime, the focus on site is now less on acute crisis intervention, and much more on trauma-pedagogical work. Other aid organisations also now observe that especially children show signs of post-traumatic stress disorders, like anxiety, aggression, or sleeping-disorders.
In the Child Friendly Spaces and in emergency pedagogy offerings, spatial, social, and psychological safe places are created, where children, despite their flight-experiences and existential hardships, can develop healthily.
In order to make experiencing safety and continuity possible, teachers and parents must also be incorporated into the work. Their own experiences and difficult living conditions in the camps do not make this easy. Often one parent is still imprisoned by ISIS; teachers are confronted with very little space and few materials as well as overcrowded classrooms. Many have few resources to give children the attention and care that they need in order to recover from traumatising experiences. The goal is to stabilise them and to educate them about trauma-related behavioural problems and needs of children. This ensures that children will be give safety and continuity as well as stable relationships in their everyday life and this helps to psychosocially stabilise them.

In the refugee camps, parental advising and teacher seminars are carried out by a Waldorf pedagogue and a doctor. Since 2015, local employees have been continuously trained and further educated. In addition to the specialized education, it is important to us that the employees work increasingly independently—through the use of selected methods they are encouraged to do so in workshops.

In addition since autumn 2016, seminars for future teachers are being offered at the University of Dohuk. They are lead by an experienced trauma pedagogue; the practical units are carried out by local pedagogues. After the introductory seminar in November, principals and methods of trauma-pedagogical work are now being expanded on.

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