Prime Minister's speech at opening of International School of Choueifat

Speech by KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani
Erbil, 4 November 2008

Dear teachers, distinguished guests,

I would also like to welcome representatives of the diplomatic community here. And Commander Brown, of the American forces, has come from Mosul. You are very welcome.

Good afternoon and welcome to you all. I am pleased and privileged to be with you today to participate in the opening ceremony of the International School of Choueifat. Two years ago we gathered in a ceremony to lay the cornerstone of this school. At that time this hill was an empty field.

We have today stood in the courtyard of a model school in which our students can learn science, gain knowledge, and grow to secure prosperous lives for themselves and their families. Our future generations are looking forward to a bright and successful future.

It is clear that, before the collapse of the previous regime, the future of our children had been neglected and equal educational opportunities were not provided. So our struggle was for the purpose of achieving a better life for all.

When I took office, there were certain sectors on which I knew the Kurdistan Region must focus. Education has been at the forefront of these sectors.

Therefore, now and also in the future, education is and will be a top priority in Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) policy. Our objective is to formulate a comprehensive educational structure replete with modern and enriched content. To this end we have taken practical steps forward.

Here I would like to outline briefly why education has a fundamental role in advanced societies.

Education is a critical aspect of investment upon which we should place great importance. As our children learn to read and write, the knowledge that they gain will stay with them for life. Talent, skills and the ability to think critically will help our students to achieve their dreams and their aspirations.

If pupils study seriously, they will be able to take advantage of opportunities in both the public and private sectors. This will result in further progress of the Kurdistan Region in all aspects. Through education we can establish a modern and developed community.

Including the subject of civic education into our primary school curricula paves the way for us to instill ethics and the proper conduct of tolerance and peaceful coexistence, as well as respect for human rights, democracy, and respect for all the different components and elements of society.

Professional, quality education readies students for a bright future. Education allows students to learn discipline and absorb the concepts of responsibility, teamwork, dedication and sincerity. This type of educational system and network will be a great advantage for the Kurdistan Region and all of Iraq in the future.

In the KRG we focus on strategic capacity-building and the development of human resources. We can achieve these goals through education: through the hard work of teachers, the diligent study of pupils, and the provision of necessary educational materials.

One day we will witness, with our own eyes, our children bring forth the advancements and achievements of which we, ourselves, had dreamed.

The International School of Choueifat is another example of an effort to promote quality and advanced education. Students receiving diplomas from this school will have the opportunity to enrol in international universities and colleges.

By doing so, they will become an asset not only to themselves but also to the Kurdistan Region. We in the government want all students throughout the Region and throughout Iraq to have access to, and to not be deprived of, modern teaching methodology, and to benefit from new educational techniques.

The International School of Choueifat has produced two examples of such practical models: first, it has partnered with the Ministry of Education with regard to public schools through a private-public partnership; and second, it has incorporated a scholarship system for low-income households.

The Kurdistan Regional Government is pleased that the outcome of its initiative to provide the resources for this scholarship program has been successful. If these scholarships did not exist, students would have been denied this opportunity. Instead, today these students have a bright future as a result of the scholarships that have been awarded.

We have invested in all levels of education. I am pleased by the advancements that have been made in the universities to a certain extent. The Ministry of Higher Education has worked fervently to develop the capacity of our public universities, while at the same time fully cooperating and coordinating with private universities and developing them.

Nonetheless we have much to do, particularly in building the capacity of individuals and preparing them for employment based on professional needs and demand. While governmental jobs are honorable and help our Region, we should remember that the private sector is the engine of economic growth around the world.

The government has continuously focused on offering training courses for teachers, in order to enhance their ability to provide quality and modern education.

We must also pay attention to vocational education and to the provision of training courses - with the purpose of scaling up the skills and talents of our work force.

The outcome and benefit of educational investment will not be immediately apparent in the economy or in our governmental operations. But if we pay attention to the academic progress of our students and our schools, then in the future we will have skillful, capable, and talented human resources in the Kurdistan Region.

I can assure the parents of our students that only then will we see daily improvements in the Region - when our children are happy, educated, and given the opportunity to succeed. And at that time, we will all have succeeded.

The sustained security and stable environment in the Region encourages Kurdistanis from around the world to return to the Region. We can also see a number of foreign NGOs, companies, and diplomats now in the Kurdistan Region.

They all require a quality educational system for their children and families. The International School of Choueifat has been an answer for this wish and demand.

Although the International School of Choueifat is a private sector project, it participates considerably in the KRG’s target developmental areas.

First, the school offers a world class education. Second, it opens the door for other private educational institutions to enter the Kurdistan Region. Third, it raises the performance level expected of both public and private schools. Fourth, it presents an opportunity for building public-private partnerships.

In terms of strategic development, the benefits of this school will come slowly. After graduation, once individuals begin working – whether in the private or public sphere – they will utilise their educational experiences and expertise in day-to-day operations. And then the Kurdistan Region will fully realise the importance and value of educational investment.

I would like to thank everyone who has participated in the implementation of this important initiative.

I thank the local and foreign contracting companies, engineers, designers, architects, and all the laborers for the hard work in creating this wonderful school.

It is proper to thank the Ministry of Education, since they have cooperated with and been involved in the Choueifat project from the beginning. Therefore I would like to especially thank former Minister of Education Mr Abdul Aziz Tayeb for his continued efforts in laying the ground work for this important educational institution in the Kurdistan Region.

I deem it necessary, in addition, to give special thanks to my brother Abdulrahman for his efforts. I also give many thanks to Mr Carl Bistany, all the teachers and the staff of the International School of Choueifat, and also Mr Sabah Qadir, and the Froble Company for their intense efforts in ensuring the success of this project. I would like to thank the dear teachers from abroad for their help. You have come from far away and the KRG welcomes you warmly and appreciates you efforts here.

I hope this project will have sustained continuity throughout Kurdistan and all of Iraq. We have decided to soon try schools in Suleyminiya and Dohuk and elsewhere so that other towns and cities can benefit from this service.

Choueifat’s aspirations have not stopped here, but will continue in the future as well. Together we are trying to build a teacher training centre and Choueifat University, which will be a major service and investment in the education sector in the Kurdistan Region.

I realise that teaching is a noble profession - a difficult task that requires constant effort. So to the staff and teachers here today, and to teachers across the Kurdistan Region, I congratulate you all for your success in fulfilling your duties. Your continued efforts and contributions are the foundations of the progress that we achieve in the Region.

I congratulate the students before me, and your peers across the Region, for your achievements. And I assure you of the KRG’s firm and sincere support in your academic development.

As parents and as a government, we all should take an active and effective role in encouraging and assisting our children. You are the future of our people and of this Region. Rest assured that schools will benefit and that we will spare no effort in supporting you.

I am sure that our children are benefiting from the services we offer in the sector of education. The success of our students is the success of our government.

In closing, I would like to give a special thanks to engineer Samir and his colleagues who worked day and night to follow up the project. My warm thanks to the local company, Zozik, who worked hard to accomplish the opening of this institution in record time.

I wish an excellent academic year to all students and teachers in the Kurdistan Region. I wish you success.

Thank you for your patience. Once again, thank you very much. You are all very welcome.