Yasser, a 27 year old English teacher in Kawergosk refugee camp in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, relaxes in the teacher’s common room, chatting with his colleagues after a tiring day at work .
His job has become more difficult in recent weeks because 20 of his colleagues from the camp school have departed for Europe.
“They’d lived two years in a tent, and that’s very hard. They wanted a new life, one without war,” Yasser says.
Yasser who fled Syria two years ago to avoid being conscripted by armed groups, has no plans to follow his colleagues abroad, even though working conditions are by no means ideal.
Teachers in camps such as Kawargosk struggle to make end meet, but thanks to a generous contribution from KfW, UNICEF is working to ensure that several hundred teachers soon receive cash payments to tide them over.
And Yasser’s teaching schedule, which was busy to begin with, is now extra heavy because of the lack of staff.
“I’m very tired,” he says. “And other teachers have the same problems.”
However he has a powerful reason to remain where he is.
“It’s a great job and we have good students. I want to stay here and take care of Syrian children. If I go, who will do that?”
It’s a sentiment echoed by his friend and colleague Raid, 30. “I have relatives in Germany and they sent for me, but I didn’t go,” he said. “These are out people and we should stay and support them.”
Raid teaches geography. Previously he worked as a chef, where he was making three times more than the $US400 per month that teachers in camps are paid. But when he was asked to return to teaching he responded immediately.
“I came because the children needed me,” he says. “When you cook, you help someone for a day; but when you teach, you help them for a lifetime.”