In a country where the Christian minority often faces discrimination, and Christians are frequently treated as second-class citizens, many parents wish to send their children to a school with a Catholic ethos. Mar Qardakh School is located in the Ankawa suburb of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, and the third-largest city in Iraq. The school was opened by the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil in 2011, with children enrolled from kindergarten to secondary level. In the school, students are taught to center their life on Christ and are equipped to spread the Word of God and raise their own future children in the Faith. In addition to its Catholic ethos, Mar Qardakh sets itself apart from other schools in Iraq by focusing on critical thinking rather than rote learning and educating students as whole persons: mind, body, and soul.
Erbil became home to many Iraqi Christians fleeing the Islamic State (IS) from the Christian villages of the Niniveh Plain and Mosul in 2014. This, alongside the school’s excellent reputation, has meant that admissions have been growing steadily. By 2022, the school had grown to 460 pupils, including 109 children in kindergarten. With the increasing number of enrollments, the school was simply not big enough to accommodate all students. The archdiocese turned to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) for assistance in building a new kindergarten adjacent to the school. This would free up space for the older students in the main school buildings and would also allow the school to take in more kindergarten-age children.
The new kindergarten has now been built and opened. It is equipped with six classrooms and a playground in which the children can play and learn, allowing Mar Qardakh to accommodate increasing student numbers, all helping Iraq’s Christians to remain in their homeland. ACN contributed approximately €250,000 to the construction of the new kindergarten. According to Farah, the mother of a five-year-old girl, the construction of the new kindergarten was “a dream come true.” Luma, the mother of a four-year-old boy, describes the joy that the kindergarten has brought: “The sheer joy and relief it has brought to our community is huge. It’s evident in the eager footsteps of my son and others rushing into the kindergarten with real joy… It is wonderful to witness the dedicated teachers, their faces lighting up as they receive my child and other children. I know they will ensure that my son’s journey in the kindergarten will be filled with joy, learning, and love. Thank you, Aid to the Church in Need!”
Iraq has been a priority country for ACN for many years, as the Christian community recovers in the wake of the destruction caused by the Islamic State. In 2023, ACN supported 32 projects in Iraq with more than €1,300,000.