“The only school in our neighbourhood was full, while the ground floor of our house was empty. So my wife and I decided to hold classes here,” explains Mr Mohammadi.
A retired teacher, he is now back at work because of his passion for teaching, as part of an initiative run by Iran’s Literacy Movement Organization (LMO).
An inclusive policy brings challenges
In 2015, the Government of Iran issued a decree allowing all children to study in Iranian public schools, regardless of their nationality or documentation status. Due to this inclusive policy, approximately 730,000 Afghan children were able to attend local schools in the 2022/23 academic year.
However, because of limited capacity and a lack of catch-up classes at appropriate grade levels, many Afghan children do not currently attend school.
Mashhad is the capital of Razavi Khorasan, a province in north-eastern Iran on the border with Afghanistan. It hosts a large number of Afghans who have entered Iran either through official crossing points or via irregular routes.
At Sheikh Sadoogh school, close to the city, catch-up literacy classes are being held for Afghan refugee children and Iranian children in two shifts each day. Still, the increasing demand for education in the area poses a serious challenge. “These children are 10 years old and younger, so they need to study somewhere close to where they live,” says Mr Mohammadi.
Turning ideas into reality
“My wife and I decided to use the ground floor of our house for holding literacy classes,” says Mr Mohammadi.
When they started the classes, the floor was bare and children had to sit on the ground. Mr Mohammadi and his wife wanted to prepare a proper classroom with benches and a whiteboard, just like what other students experience in school.
“Since school equipment in general belongs to the Ministry of Education and cannot be taken out of schools, my wife and I bought benches and boards, so the students don’t have to sit on the ground,” he explains with pride.
Right now, Mr Mohammadi teaches the boys while his wife, who is also a former teacher, teaches the girls.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) supported the LMO and Mr Mohammadi in providing education to Afghan children in Mashhad by helping to identify children who could not enrol, and by contributing to both his and his wife’s salaries.
Dedicated to a brighter future
Not only has Mr Mohammadi provided many children with the opportunity to develop the skills they need to enter formal education, he has also built strong relationships with parents, raising awareness about the need for children to continue coming to school.
Some of the country’s most marginalised children now have the chance to enrol and study alongside their friends. In Mr Mohammadi’s class, 90 per cent of students have already confirmed their registration for the upcoming 2023/24 school year.
NRC in Iran
Since 2012, NRC Iran has been assisting displaced Afghans in Iran as well as their Iranian host communities. We work to improve protection and access to basic humanitarian services across ten provinces (Alborz, Tehran, Yazd, South Khorasan, Hormozgan, Kerman, Razavi Khorazan, Marzaki, Semnan, and Sistan and Baluchestan).
Since mid-2021, NRC Iran has scaled up its work significantly in connection with recent developments in Afghanistan, while maintaining all existing programmes in Iran.
About NRC’s partnership with the Educate A Child progamme
In partnership with Education Above All’s Educate A Child programme, with the generous support of the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and in cooperation with the Literacy Movement Organization (LMO), NRC continues to increase access to quality primary education for out-of-school Iranian and Afghan children across the country. In 2023 to date, almost 2,200 vulnerable children have attended classes that we have supported.
We are also rehabilitating classrooms and sanitation facilities in the schools where we work. Through these interventions, we are aiming to minimise the risk of children abandoning their studies and encourage those who have been forced to do so to return to education.