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Kurdistan-Iraq September 2015

The First Day of School in Northern Iraq


Just in time for the first day of school in the refugee camps in the Dohuk region, a volunteer emergency pedagogy team of the Friends of Waldorf Education has once again travelled to northern Iraq. This is now the sixth mission of the German experts in the region.

Since April the Friends of Waldorf Education, in cooperation with UNICEF, have been continually active in the refugee camps near the city of Zakho. A local team made up of nine pedagogues supports the children on site with the processing of their traumata.
But the conditions in the camps are difficult and stressful for the people there, most of whom have already lost everything. Without future perspectives or hope for an improvement in the camp, many see a further flight outside of the country as their only chance. The local team of the Friends of Waldorf Education is trying to work against this lack of perspective. Together with teachers, ways were found to turn the refugee camps’ schools into hopeful places. This was accomplished by, among other things, turning the inner courtyard into a small oasis where grass and flowers were planted.
But many of the teachers, who are themselves refugees, do not return to the school for the first day; others are heavily traumatised and can hardly work with their just as traumatised pupils in the camp.

In order to support the local emergency pedagogy team in facing this situation, a team of German pedagogues and therapists were on site from September 18th to October 2nd. During this time, the emergency pedagogy experts were able to offer workshops like art therapy, experiential pedagogy, and music pedagogy to over 1,350 children. They also trained about 40 teachers in the foundations of psychotraumatology and emergency pedagogy. The special focus of this mission’s teacher training was to emphasise the importance of self care and to strengthen feelings of self efficacy. For many teachers, the idea that they should care for themselves in order to have energy for their work with the children was a totally new one. Workshops and lectures for teachers and parents were designed to present ways to break free from the victim role, how to indentify inner resources and develop own initiative. Because only adults who are themselves stable are able to support traumatised children.

The next mission is planned for November. It will offer children as well as adults psychosocial aid and strengthen their self efficacy. To accomplish this goal, among other efforts, psychotherapists who live in the camp should be indentified and trained in trauma pedagogy. By experiencing self efficacy, despondency and feelings of powerlessness should be overcome and own initiative should be strengthened.

The joint project with UNICEF continues until the end of the year. In order to be able to continue carrying out emergency pedagogical work with children in the refugee camps in northern Iraq, the Friends of Waldorf Education are dependent on donations.

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