Without School, Children Of Mosul Feared Lost To Poverty And Conflict
Tens of thousands of children have been orphaned or left homeless by the war on the Islamic State (ISIS) and forced to work to support their families in Mosul, the militant's last major city stronghold in Iraq.
Returning these children to school is a priority for Iraq to end the cycle of sectarian violence fuelled in part by poverty and ignorance, the United Nations says.
Even in the half of Mosul east of the Tigris River that has been retaken by Iraqi forces, where 320 of the 400 schools have reopened, Reuters interviewed dozens of children working as rubbish collectors, vegetable vendors or mechanics.
"I did not go to school because Islamic State came and they would teach children about fighting and send them to fight," says 12-year-old Falah by his vegetable cart in Mosul.
Falah has four younger brothers. None of them have ever been to school.
Huzayfa studied up to the fifth grade but stopped when ISIS came. The militants taught math using bullets, rifles and bombs, said the 12-year-old, who sells scrap metal.
The local education department in Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital, estimates 10 percent of children in east Mosul are still out of school. There has been no official count for almost four years.
There are no official statistics on the dropout rate, a spokesman for Iraq's Education Ministry said, especially as many families have fled Mosul or Iraq altogether.
Schools in east Mosul started reopening in January and so far around 350,000 students are back in class, compared to 183,229 in 2013, with much of the increase due to displaced people from west Mosul and surrounding villages.