Why Is School Important?
When we think of school, we shouldn’t be thinking only about subjects like math or history. As important as learning these is, every school should have more to offer to students who spend over a decade there trying to learn how the world works. Schools must contribute to building the personalities of their students and develop their creativity.
As students feel the need to form an opinion about hundreds of things around them in a short time, they tend to mirror what their classmates or teachers do or support as that gives them a sense of belonging.
Sadly, Iraq isn’t the place that offers the best education. Our school books rarely include subjects that challenge student’s brains or encourage them to be different and unique.
Our educational system is memorization based which teaches students to search for someone else’s opinion- like a teacher, or a parent, or even a stranger to guide them on how to feel about something. And that teaches students one thing! Which is that almost nothing of what they say is valid unless it gets approved by others.
And here is where we need to see some change. We need books and teachers that empower students to build better future for themselves regardless of the limitations that get enforced by society.
Where Do Students Learn About Their Sexuality?
Topics such as sexual and gender diversity are never discussed inside any Iraqi classroom. Even science books, that are supposed to discuss valuable facts on how diverse and exciting our universe is, avoid talking about such subjects claiming that they ruin student’s brains.
From the other side, Iraqi parents aren’t the best option when trying to discuss the subject of sexuality.
With parents not discussing this topic at home and the absence of proper guidance from the schools side, students often form that fear of asking and learning about their sexuality, sex, protection, and relationships in general.
They grow to think that there’s one way to live this life and it’s the way that their society chooses for them. Their roles get determined based on their genders and their sexuality are never questioned. Even if they had luck finding out who they really are, they will barely find a chance to express it.
The internet might be the best option to them to figure out things! But is it a safe option?
Do Iraqi Teachers Encourage Their Students To Use Their Brains?
Our system doesn’t encourage its teachers to improve their teaching over time. A large percentage of teachers start teaching in their early twenties and retire by their early sixties with almost the same equipment, the same teaching strategies, and the same mentalities. Some might even find it offensive to learn from young students who come to them with challenging questions.
“You memorize this question and its answer as they are, you go to the exam and write exactly the same. Then if you like, you can just forget about it all. Just make sure to keep the information in your head until the exam is over.” That’s what one of my math teachers used to tell me.
All we can say is that majority of them stick to one fixed teaching method that goes on and on for years and years.
If we want our future to be brighter than our present and past, we must understand that teachers require training and guidance as much as their students. Teachers have a lot to learn including how to accept their students who are different.
Does Iraq Offer Teachers Who Instigates Violence & Hatred?
Benjamin is a biromantic, bigender, asexual Iraqi guys who is 18 years old. Ben talks about his negative experience that happened back in 2018 by saying, “Like any normal school student, I was attending my physics class when I noticed that my teacher kept giving me weird looks. I immediately knew that he didn’t like me as he kept bothering me with his hurtful words during the first and second lectures.
By the third lecture, the teacher started asking the class a very racist questions that had nothing to do with the subject he was supposed to be teaching. Then he asked me about Lot, feminism, and makeup.
The teacher spent all the third lecture talking about how people like me must be burned or thrown from high buildings. His words were full of hatred and at the end he threatened to dismiss me from his class. He actually tried to do that but luckily my father came to the school and solved the problem after a long fight.
That teacher never stopped hating me. Also, the bullying and the harassment that was coming from many students around me never stopped.
To be fair, some students were by my side but there were others who expressed their hatred by accusing of receiving money for sex. Actually, one of the students offered me money to have sex with him.
As someone who has been through such an experience and understands the difficulty of it, I advise teachers to use the power they are given in order to end hatred and support anyone who is like me. I believe their support can make such a great impact on our society.”
What Are We Celebrating Today?
Today, January 24th, marks the International Day of Education which is celebrated to acknowledge the important role of education and the impact it has on people’s lives. Today we mention how well-planned strategies of teaching can make the work of all the Iraqi NGOs that are fighting to end sexism, violence, homophobia, and discrimination easier.
It’s a good time to let our teachers everywhere in Iraq know that what they encourage their students to accept or reject can have an impact on everybody’s lives sooner or later including theirs.
One teacher can change a whole class by choosing an effective teaching method that encourages them to question everything around them and to believe that one idea in the head of any of them can be the answer to a question that no one is yet able to answer.
To all the Iraq teachers out there who empower their students, who give them hope, and who give them space to figure out themselves, IraQueer sends you the best wishes. Happy International Day of Education.