Yezidi Emergency Support (Y.E.S.)
Project Name: Support education and encourage participation in school.
Context Analysis: The so-called “Islamic State” slaughtered the Yezidis in 2014 on Sinjar, when it was marked by utmost violence including genocidal acts against the Yezidis population. While the plight of Yezidi victims was highlighted last month through the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Yezidi survivor Nadia Murad, the city of Sinjar remains largely uninhabitable. Elsewhere in Iraq reconstruction is slowly happening, but in Sinjar it never started. Three years after the Iraqi town of Sinjar was recaptured from Islamic State group, the Yezidis have begun to return. The town is in ruins and the population has largely been left to its own devices. Unlike other places in Iraq, which are slowly but surely being rebuilt, there has still been no progress in Sinjar. About 70 per cent of the buildings in Sinjar were damaged or destroyed during operations to retake the town. Large parts of the town remain uninhabitable, and today, Sinjar is like a ghost town, with no water, only one school and no hospitals. Those who have returned home are living under extremely miserable conditions.
There are as many as 4,000 children left with no or only one parent following their near extermination in the 2014 genocide by ISIS. They are often cared by near relatives who are equally as poor. The unemployment rate amongst the Yezidi population is deemed to be around 80%. This is due to the remote location of the camps from towns and the lack of any employment prospects for Yezidis in a society where they are not of the same faith. In Sinjar the conditions for the approximately 60,000 occupants of the mountain and destroyed villages and cities conditions are far worse with little access to aid, healthcare and schools. Most live in appalling poverty suffering from malnutrition and poor health. The Yezidis, who have lived through the worst atrocities committed by IS group, are now suffering from a lack of international support, and they are starting to be forgotten. Now is the time for action, so that more children can have the opportunity to access education regardless of distance.
In view of this situation, prompt actions are needed in order to i) create safe environments for children. ii) encourage participation in school. iii) increase awareness on violence against children.
Problem Analysis and Suggested Activities: Education is a powerful tool for breaking the cycle of poverty; supporting child survival, growth, development and well-being; and closing the gap in social inequality. Many Yezidi children trek long distances to school due to high transport fares and extreme poverty. Children need to walk five to six kilometres daily to get to school. Currently, there are over 50 children aged 5-12 who walk daily from Sardashti camp to school and back. Up until now, neither education authorities nor national government has considered the impact of long travel hours, to and from schools, on students’ health and learning abilities. The lengthy walk to school interrupts their concentration in class, with many children arriving at different times. Some of them arrive at school stressed and exhausted both physically and psychologically, which compromises their performance. Access to schools is also hampered by poor roads, transport is unavailable or unaffordable, danger along the way can negatively influence regular attendance as well as extramural activity participation.
Many Yezidi children fail to get to school in time due to inclement weather such as heavy rainfall and snow, and therefore miss an entire day or lesson which affects their overall learning in the long run. Also, they have to carry heavy books every day on their backs which is a huge burden especially for the younger ones. The long distances also mean getting up earlier, doing homework later – as well as reducing free time which is crucial for a balanced life. Another barrier in the way from school to home is that children have to wait at the security checkpoints for someone to come and pick them up which also causes additional stress for them. Sometimes, if they are lucky the hitch lifts with strangers is another option for them to get home.
Thoughts about how distant it is to get to school keep running in children’s mind whenever they wake up. This coupled with the pile of homework assignments demoralizes them. Students can suffer from exhaustion and headaches. Children are more prone to stress and exhaustion – that is why risk factors such as long distances to school must be minimized. Therefore, the school bus will provide some relief for children as it tends to manage time better and provide a more relaxed way to travel to school. Hence, the kids will spend the time to know each other, make friends and learn to be disciplined, which are major determinants of success at school. In addition, moving together in a bus will enhance the bond between children and will make sure that kids get to school and get home safely. More importantly, children will arrive on time, will not be exhausted and therefore will increase their concentration level in the class.
Other applications of this bus will include:
- Taking survivors of ISIS to hospitals for treatment.
- Outings for children: free activities and attractions for kids e.g. visit temples, picnic dinner etc.
- Service to marketplaces for widows, disabled and survivors of ISIS captivity who have children.
The school bus will help create safe environment and help to prevent violence against children especially girls who are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment as they spend most of their time on the road walking to school without adult supervision. Many of these children have been subjected to sexual slavery under ISIS and are very fearful of strangers. Sinjar mountain is a hub for military actors from all factions and hence there are many men unknown to the children. This is not a safe environment to walk in. Although males can also be victims, violence disproportionately affects females. In addition to the school bus, Y.E.S. aims to prevent and respond to violence against children by increasing the awareness at schools and within the communities and by empowering children through information and skills. Thus, it will help reduce the incidence of violence in schools and communities. Y.E.S. believes that life skills education helps children develop critical thinking, build their self-esteem to communicate effectively, solve problems cooperatively, and protect themselves from violence throughout their lives.
The Yezidi Emergency Support will be responsible for making sure that its staff, operations, and programmes do no harm children, that there is no exposure of children to the risk of harm and abuse, and that any concerns the organisation has about children’s safety within the communities and schools in which we work, are reported to the appropriate authorities.
To contribute to the achievement of the overall and specific objectives, the programme focuses on achieving the following four programme results (outcomes):
- More children have safe access to school.
- Enhanced attendance at school.
- Help children protect themselves from sexual abuse.
- Build awareness and teach skills to help children and adolescents understand consent, avoid and prevent sexual abuse and exploitation, and to seek help and support.
- Enhanced awareness and knowledge on violence against children who have lived through the worst atrocities committed by IS group.
- Empowerment of schools to protect children and report any incidences of violence.
- Reduced peer violence and bullying in schools.
- Reduced violent punishment by school staff.
- Improved sense of safety in schools.
Target and Location: The project will target 50 children from Sardashti camp aged 5-12 who are experiencing difficulties with access to school.
- Operation of school bus four trips a day. Due to the preidentified capacity of the school bus which is 26 seats, the children will be delivered to school by groups.
- Ongoing formal and informal dialogue and networking with principals, in collaboration with relevant government agencies, to support and prepare personal safety lessons in schools.
- Training for all teachers, counsellors and administrators by Y.E.S.’ team. This is crucial for reducing violence in schools and communities.
- Personal safety materials and related materials developed and provided for all students, teachers and parents.
- Number of children delivered to school by the school bus.
- Number of children attending the school.
- Increase of children’s life skills. Proportion of children who know what to do/who to turn to in case of victimization.
- Number of teachers trained.