The University of Anbar in Ramadi has reopened its doors for the first time since "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) fighters were driven from the campus in 2015, and is welcoming students for the 2016-2017 academic year.
During the group's occupation of the city, ISIL fighters overran the campus, using it as a base and as a storage facility for weapons and explosives.
Iraqi forces regained control of the university in late 2015, but during the battle of liberate Ramadi, parts of the main campus were heavily damaged.
"The cost of repairing the damages that the University of Anbar sustained stands at around 300 billion Iraqi dinars ($253 million)," said university media and public relations department head Abdulrahman al-Fahdawi.
"Despite all the damages, the university administration decided to take on the challenge of rehabilitating its infrastructure using available resources, and open its doors again to students for the new academic year," he told Diyaruna.
Classes will resume in undamaged and partly damaged buildings, he said, noting that the entire teaching staff is on hand and ready to start the new academic year.
"Throughout ISIL's occupation of Ramadi, the teaching staff kept teaching at the alternative locations that were set up for the university in Abu Ghraib in Baghdad and in Kirkuk," he added.
Al-Fahdawi said he expects the majority of the university's 18,000 students to return to school this year.
Students enrolled in the university who remain displaced from the areas still under ISIL control "will be allowed to study at other universities in Kirkuk and the Kurdish region until their cities are liberated", he added.
Plan to protect the university
Anbar police forces, in co-operation with the tribal mobilisation forces (TMF), have devised a joint plan to secure the university campus for the new academic year, said Falah Qaraghouli, TMF commander in western Anbar.
"The tribal forces will work with the Anbar police emergency units' 3rd battalion to protect the university campus over the next period," he told Diyaruna.
The University of Anbar "is once again a centre of education and enlightenment due to the perseverance of Anbar residents", he said.
With the advancement of the Iraqi army, ISIL rigged the western parts of the campus with explosives "in a flagrant show of disregard for the values of education and civilisation", he said.
Iraqi forces have since succeeded in removing all landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and have managed to preserve the campus, he said.
However, he added, "ISIL's taking cover in the university during the fighting caused heavy damages to 30% of its buildings, not to mention raiding the laboratories and looting equipment, which is still unaccounted for".
Repair work is under way to rehabilitate what is still salvageable, he said, stressing that reconstruction efforts will continue until the university has been restored to its former status.
"Resuming instruction this year is in and of itself a victory over terrorism," Qaraghouli said.
Promising academic year in Anbar
Anbar provincial council education committee member Sadiq Jamil said he anticipates a "promising academic year" in Ramadi and other liberated cities.
"Anbar's educational directorates and colleges in the province have started providing the necessary supplies such as desks, writing boards and stationary while also receiving support from international organisations to repair 100 schools in Ramadi alone so that they are fit to receive students again," he said.
As for school buildings that were completely destroyed in the battles, Jamil said, the local authorities will provide large trailers as temporary replacements to accommodate students and staff.
Jamil said he hoped at least "80% of the students would go back to school during the new school year, which will be the first after the liberation of Ramadi from ISIL".