Can Iraq Reconcile?: Lessons from a Rooftop Classroom

By Qais Qasim

In a crowded Baghdad neighborhood, one Iraqi teacher is providing free education for families fleeing conflict.

Qussay Kamel is teaching free lessons for families who have fled ISIS-controlled areas. Public schools won't take students who have relocated to the district, to discourage resettlement.

More than 25 students now attend and because classes have no indoor space, Mr Kamel teaches on rooftops.

“"It's the only thing I can offer, to help children, the children of poor families, the children of war victims, the children of immigrants, and fleeing families who cannot afford a private teacher for their own children,” Mr Kamel told Peace News.

“Or those whose parents have had basically no education at all - their parents cannot help them with mathematics or English," he said.

Despite Qussay being Shi'ite, in an increasingly sectarian country, he doesn't discriminate, and most of his students are Sunni.

"He is helping us with reading, comprehension, writing, and even manners - how to behave in the presence of others. He always reminds us that we are just like his own children," Retaj, a student, said.

"He is teaching us mathematics - in a mathematics examination I got 82 of 100. My family are grateful to him," said Aysha, another student.

"He is doing his best. He helped us avoid the extra cost of private teachers - as a family who has fled we cannot afford this. Also, he pays attention to the children as if they were his own,” said Amal, a mother of one of the students.