Even in regions racked by deprivation, parents still see education as the main hope for their children to escape violence poverty.
That was the discovery made by a University of East London academic Dr Kathryn Kraft who visited norther Iraq to gauge the need for support.
Children would often work in half-finished buildings with no water supply and schools would operate three shifts a day with classes of up to 250 but still there was a determination to fill children’s lives with knowledge as an antidote to radicalisation.
Dr Kraft, a lecturer in international development, said: “Children might lose a few months of schooling, but to lose years of schooling is like losing a generation, and risking the next generation succumbing to extremism.”
Dr Kraft has been looking into how an NGO called Served can partner with global satellite TV station Sat-7 to deliver literacy and numeracy to displaced people.
She recounted stories told to her by parents she met in refugee camps which are currently home to up to 1,800 families and during visits to internally displaced Iraqis living in host communities.
Dr Kraft said, “Mothers and fathers would tell me how they fled Daesh (Isis) at night, often being given 24 hours’ notice to escape or face the real threat of enslavement and death.”
Some of the most heart-breaking stories were from Yadizi families, often singled out for torture and execution.
“They lack the international network of moral and material support that the Christians have. It seems that fewer than half of the Yazidi children are attending school, and many are living in sub-standard shelters.”
Dr Kraft said that another effect of the rise of Daesh was the divisions that had been sown between Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian and Yazidi communities, who had previously lived peacefully alongside each other.
“One teacher I spoke to explained how trust had broken down,” said Dr Kraft. “Once Daesh arrived, things changed. Neighbours would side with Daesh, perhaps out of fear, and turn on their neighbours.
“One teacher told me, ‘After my neighbours turned on me, how can I trust anymore? But I know the ability to trust is something inside my heart. I nurture it and teach that to my students’.”