Read caption When Mohammed, 18, heard about NRC’s youth community centre, he signed up for the mobile maintenance course. "Fixing mobile phones is like a hobby to me," he says. Photo: Alan Ayoubi/NRC

The Mobile Technician from Mosul

Helen Baker|Published 18. Dec 2018
IRAQ/Mosul: During the IS group’s control, many students left school because of changes in the curriculum and a high focus on fighting and violence. Eighteen-year-old Mohammed didn’t finish his high school degree. "The new curriculum didn’t encourage me to study, and I was mentally tired. I also needed to work for a living."

He left school to work with his uncle in a cosmetic store to assist his family. But the store was closed, since the IS group didn’t allow any cosmetics, according to Mohammed. Thus, they turned the store into a teashop, where Mohammed worked until the city was retaken by the Iraqi government last year.

Then he heard about NRC’s youth community centre and signed up for the mobile maintenance course. "Fixing mobile phones is like a hobby to me."

Read caption Today, Mohammed works in a mobile repair shop. Photo: Alan Ayoubi/NRC

Mohammed’s father used to have a mobile phone repair shop, but the shop was closed when IS group banned the use of mobile phones. "We didn’t even have electricity to use electronic devices," he explains. Having already learnt basic mobile repairing skills from his father, he was able to develop and learn new skills through the NRC course. Today, he works in a shop selling and repairing mobile phones.

"I’m recommending every person in search of a job to apply for one of the NRC youth centre courses, to gain new skills and experience."

Although more than 1,200 people have registered for the courses, NRC’s youth centre only has the capacity for 400 students at a time.

"Every day people visit the centre to register, but unfortunately we cannot register their names as the courses may be coming to an end and we don’t know if there will be enough funding to continue to provide these courses," says Dima Issam, NRC’s Youth Coordinator in Mosul.

"The course helped me find a job, but many of my friends from class are still searching. Finding work in Mosul is difficult," says Mohammed. "It would be great if the government or organisations could establish a project for funding small business. Now we have the skills, but we don’t have the resources to benefit from them."

Read caption Mohammed attends the mobile maintenance course. Photo: Alan Ayoubi/NRC

Technology opens new doors for Iraqi youth

Years of conflict has left Iraq in an economic crisis and young people are struggling to find work. The Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) technology classes offer them a place to learn new skills and better their chances in the job market.

A little over a year ago, Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city situated in the north-west of the country, was retaken from the Islamic State group by government forces. In the city, NRC runs a youth centre where we provide courses in languages, computer skills, mobile maintenance and coding. More than 1,200 youth have registered for the different classes; so many that more than half are still on the waiting list, impatient for the upcoming courses to start.

As good as any man

Sixteen-year-old Rahma is one of the young women who were lucky to achieve a spot in the coding class. She has been interested in everything related to technology and computers since the age of seven.

I want to show my abilities and skills as a girl, to prove that I can be as good as any man in technology.
Rahma (16)

"I’m taking this course because I want to create websites for local organisations, as many of them have none," she says. "Also, I want to show my abilities and skills as a girl, to prove that I can be as good as any man in technology."

Rahma hopes that computer and coding classes will help improve her future job opportunities.

"I am happy that NRC is providing these types of courses for girls, and that you believe in our abilities. I’m able to create a website now. I hope these courses will continue to give girls a chance of a better future."

Read caption Sixteen-year-old Rahma was lucky to achieve a spot in NRC’s coding class. She has been interested in everything related to technology and computers since the age of seven. Photo: Helen Baker/NRC

Equal opportunities

Amina, 25, is also happy to participate in the computer and coding classes. "Generally, most courses like this only provide tailoring and knitting classes for girls. But I want to have a real job and be able to assist my family."

A graduate student from Technical College in Mosul, Department of Medical Devices, Amina missed three years of university when the IS group was controlling the city. The universities were closed, and the situation was not safe. Girls had to cover themselves from top to toe, and men had to dress in a certain way. Electricity, mobile phones, internet and satellites were not allowed. The citizens of Mosul were completely disconnected.

Only after the liberation of Mosul city last year was Amina able to return to college and graduate.

She heard about the NRC community centre through a brochure. "I was excited to see that they have technology courses for girls," she says:

"I am learning more from these courses than what I learnt during my time in university, because there everything was mostly theoretical. What I loved about this course, is the fact that I’m actually practicing what I learn."

Amina currently teaches Arabic and Mathematics in one of the city’s private primary schools. In the future, she hopes to find a technology-related job in a company or to create her own small company for designing websites.

"More support is needed for girls in my society and other similar societies. These courses are very beneficial, but we need to be supported for example through small loans or at least basic tools to start up a project."