University of Oldenburg & University of Vechta 

Qualification for an "Inclusive Education" in Iraq

The project aims to establish and consolidate a network of actors in teacher education at the Universities of Duhok and University of Vechta, as well as to expand the network through collaborations with other universities specialising in teacher education, academics in Iraq, and partner universities of the University of Vechta. The emphasis of this network is on teacher preparation for inclusion in public schools. As a result, it is intended to improve Iraqi university teachers' subject-specific, (special) pedagogical, and didactic skills. This is aided by a multiplier system developed in collaboration with Iraqi universities and then implemented by trainers with extensive knowledge of the subject matter. As a result, a long-term and sustainable expansion of the training offer for Iraqi university teachers is underway on a local level. The multiplier system includes the design and implementation of additional training courses on-site. Because this project will be carried out in close collaboration with Carl-von-Ossietzky University Oldenburg, which focuses on special pedagogy, synergy effects will be clearly visible when the multipliers are trained there as well as at the University of Vechta and then work in tandems in Iraqi schools. As a result, further development of local structures can be encouraged on multiple levels. The multiplier programme will be monitored and evaluated in a process-oriented manner, such as by systematically recording feedback on the multipliers' assessments or by evaluating the multipliers' training courses. The goal of additional teacher training courses held locally at Iraqi universities is to professionalise Iraqi graduates of teacher training courses. The requirement for further development.

Nearly three years have passed since the first small delegation from Carl-von-Ossietzky University Oldenburg, comprised of Prof. Dr. Monika Ortmann and Psychologist Dorin Strenge, visited the University of Duhok to investigate the feasibility of a cooperation programme and a university partnership in the field of education. The goal was to start a process of integrating people with disabilities into the community and education system as a contribution to a more humane and tolerant society. By ratifying the "Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities" on March 20, 2013, the Iraqi government committed to taking the necessary steps to enable people of all ages with varying abilities and handicaps to participate in all aspects of society.

Lots of progress has been made by now, thanks to hard work and a successful continuous collaboration. A significant step was taken in May 2014, when the presidencies of both universities signed a "Memorandum of Understanding / Agreement of Cooperation" containing the following options, which were financially supported by the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service).

The newly implemented study course "Disability Studies and Rehabilitation" at the University of Duhok has been running for two years and serves a growing number of students (3/2016: 53 students in the first cohort, about 140 in the second) who could be the future in creating opportunities for disabled people in Kurdistan and throughout Iraq.

Prof. Dr. Ortmann and her team at the University of Oldenburg are determined to assist their colleagues in Duhok by advising on study curricula, assessing the needs in scientific content and methodical expertise, and transferring experience during several already realised or planned joint science conferences, and inviting colleagues from Duhok to extended stays in Oldenburg. During those stays, an intensive programme of visiting educational institutions, schools, and organisations working with people with disabilities, participation in lectures, seminars, and meetings at the university, and a two-week science conference involving more the University colleagues and German professionals from various relevant fields will be organised.

Because of the DAAD's increased funding since 2015, such a comprehensive programme is now possible. Both parties hope to continue their positive cooperation and possibly extend it until 2018, but the road ahead is not without challenges. The security situation in Iraq is a major concern, prompting the university presidency in Oldenburg to impose travel restrictions on all scientific personnel. All German team members are aware of Kurdistan's and the University's difficult economic situation, which is complicating research and teaching efforts. Nonetheless, both parties are optimistic and motivated to continue their successful collaboration and to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities in Iraq.