SULAIMANI (Kurdistan 24) – An illiterate Kurdish man enrolled in school at 66 years of age in the autonomous Kurdistan Region and described personal difficulties that pushed him to make such a move.
Haji Bakir Sidiq, a resident of the province of Sulaimani, is now learning how to read and write in an adult education program sponsored by the local government. He is the eldest student in the school and says that being illiterate has made life very challenging for him.
“I felt so much lagging lately… So I consulted with my family and told them that I would like to study, even in this late age of mine, so that I can at least learn to read and write a bit,” Sidiq told Kurdistan 24 on Sunday.
Before this, Sidiq had never attended school in his life. Now, with the support of his family and teachers—who say that his strong ambition has driven him to learn Kurdish letters very quickly—he has become one of the top students in his class.
“When he was enrolled in our school, he knew nothing. But later, with his ongoing efforts and our support, now he can read letters. He is very curious about learning,” Sozan Rashid, a teacher, told Kurdistan 24.
“He always says that he wants to rely on himself when he visits places, without the help of others. He wants to be able to read addresses,” she added.
Soon after leaving school, Sidiq starts to do his homework.
“There are students who are happy about weekends or holidays, but I personally would like to be in school every day,” the elderly man said.
Sidiq has 29 grandchildren. He worked as a driver for one of the public offices in Sulaimani for years before he retired.
The bitter history of people in the Kurdistan Region and decades of conflict with former Iraqi governments has often left little chance for previous generations to enroll into schools as many decided to take up arms and defend the homeland as Peshmerga fighters.
After the fall of the authoritarian system in Iraq in 2003, many started to enter school in their late age; others gave up, believing it was too late for them to learn.
Editing by John J. Catherine
(Additional reporting by Diyar Jamal)