The German School in Erbil, Kurdistan-Iraq was officially opened on last Thursday by Safin Muhsin Dizayee, the Regional Government’s Education Minister, Nihad Qoja, the Chairman of the School Association and Stefan Bantle, the Head of the German Consulate-General in Erbil.
It is thus the newest of a total of more than 130 German schools abroad and the first in Iraq since the Baghdad school was closed in 1990. It will be attended by approximately 50 children in primary classes one to five, with another 50 children in the nursery. The school provides a place for shared learning and intercultural dialogue, above all for children from Kurdish families returning from Europe. The Federal Foreign Office provides financial and personnel contributions for the German School in Erbil.
The school was a project carried forward through many ups and downs by Kurdish volunteers and Birgit Svensson, a German journalist who since 2003 has been living for months in Erbil and Baghdad. Svensson is correspondent for several German, Austrian and Swiss newspapers, magazines and radio stations.
Cornelia Pieper, the German Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement on the opening of the school: “The school is of great importance to Germany, too, especially with regard to providing an education for the children of Iraqi Kurds who have lived in Germany and are now returning to their homeland. Education grants people access to social, economic and cultural life. It is the foundation for a future of one’s own choosing. Education creates prospects and is the key to prosperity. For these reasons the Federal Foreign Office will support the German School in Erbil and advise it on teaching matters.”
Since 2003, Germany has supported Iraq with diverse projects aimed at political, economic and social reconstruction. Over this period, it has spent a total of some 400 million euro on the country. In addition to education policy, the German Government is giving special priority to the reform of the judicial system, the development of a vocational education system and the protection of human rights. It has also forgiven debts of 4.8 billion euro.
A previous German project to open a huge training center in Erbil to update thousands of professionals in Iraq, from the plumber to the nurse and computer engineer, never materialized. A group of 80 German training institutes had organized a coalition especially for Iraq and was trying to obtain funding from the European Union. It remained unclear why the project failed.