• Features

A long way from home...

Monday, 11th February, 2013 12:00am
A long way from home...

• The Deputy Lord Mayor of Dublin, Kieran Binchy, and Minister Joe Costello are pictured with Zhyan Sharif and Nwa, the first registered pupil at the Native Educational Centre (above).

A WOMAN who has been centrally involved in helping to improve the quality of life of her fellow Kurds in Ireland has opened a new school on the Southside to educate Kurdish children in their own culture and language.

Zhyan Sharif, an Iraqi Kurd who has lived in Ireland since 1988, presided over the recent opening of the new Native Educational Centre based in the Lantern Centre, on Synge Street in Dublin 8.

Zhyan told Southside People that the school will teach Kurdish children their language, the history of their people and their culture.

She said about 25 children between the ages of four and 10 had already enrolled for the weekly classes that will be taught at the centre from 11am to 1pm every Saturday.

Acting as principal, Zyhan will run the school on a voluntary basis initially with two full-time and one part teaching staff helping her to deliver the curriculum. Her husband Philip will also help in an administrative capacity at the school.

“The aim of the project is to teach the Kurdish children in Ireland their mother tongue, the history of Kurdistan, their culture and some religion,” she explained. “We also want to teach the Kurdish children here how to read and write.

“There is a little girl who is eight-years-old and her father is writing poetry but she cannot read them. So when I said that I was opening a Kurdish school she came to me and said ‘oh, now I will be able to read my daddy's books'.

“It is good for kids to know where they come from. Most of them were born here in Ireland but it is important for them to know where their parents came from, and what the history of Kurdistan is. They need to be proud of their heritage.”

The Kurdish people are a native ethnic minority in the countries of the Kurdistan region, which comprise parts of Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. The Kurds have traditionally suffered from political repression and human rights abuses, most notably at the hands of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Zyhan is also president of the Kurdish-Irish Society, which is based in the New Communities Partnership Centre at 10 Cornmarket in Dublin 8, and she has been deeply involved in attempting to improve the quality of life for the small Kurdish community in Ireland.

She has a background in education and has previously taught business administration and customer service at another Southside school. She has also worked as an interpreter for the departments of education and justice in relation to their work with Kurdish refugees and asylum seekers.

She estimates that there are currently about 700 Kurds living in Dublin. She said many of them feel a sense of isolation when they come to Ireland because they are cut off from their homeland and their culture.

She pointed out that the Kurdish-Irish Centre was originally established to help Kurds to adapt to their new home.

“The Kurds that are here are separated from their wider families and from their homes, but now we have a place where we can gather and eat at the Cornmarket.

“There are about 1,500 Kurds in Ireland and most of us are from Iran and Iraq. At Christmas, Halloween and other holidays we bring all the Kurds together and take them on outings. We meet on a monthly basis otherwise, but if there is an emergency or someone needs help we can call a meeting. There are some Kurdish restaurants in Dublin, so we socialise there as well.”

Anyone who would like to contact Zyhan or her husband Philip regarding the new school can tel 085-8425722 or email: zhyans@hotmail.co.uk

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