Trish Henderson and I travelled to Iraq, the summer of 2019, to deliver a teacher training programme for a UK based charity, the Ankawa Foundation. The Ankawa Foundation (AF) works within communities in Northern Iraq, providing funds and expertise to local initiatives supporting refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in this war-torn corner of the world.
The summer school project was intended to train young Iraqi graduates to work in schools: Iraq has no teaching qualification, and the education of millions has been severely disrupted by the last three decades of conflict. At the same time, many young people have been through horrific trauma and are dealing with long term mental health issues arising from their experience of violence and instability.
We planned to return in 2020, continuing to mentor the teachers we trained last summer and rolling out the programme to more schools across Erbil. The global pandemic made this impossible, however, undaunted, AF decided that we would offer the same programme remotely.
In the spring, I appealed to the Shrewsbury School common room for volunteers and was overwhelmed by the generosity of the response. Seven Shrewsbury teachers took part in the project, giving up two weeks of their summer holiday to offer their expertise: Maurice Walters, Toby Percival, Lauren Temple, Heather May, Andy Keulemans, Anita Wyatt, and Naomi Pritchard.
We were able to offer bespoke mentoring to Iraqi teachers in P.E., English, Maths and Art & Design, as well as providing lectures and seminars in pedagogy and educational philosophy. The Iraqi teachers with whom we worked were all eager to improve their teaching practice and were hugely grateful to all those who helped them plan lessons and develop strategies for safeguarding and behaviour management.
Rasha – who fled from Baghdad during the insurgency – told us that ‘We are so touched that teachers in England are standing beside us. It helps us feel that we are not alone.’