Two months before the start of the new school year, Jalawla's al-Hoda school principal spearheaded an effort to reconstruct her school, which had been turned into a pile of rubble after the invasion of the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) in the summer of 2014.
Now more than 300 students are back at their desks at the school in Diyala province, Principal Leila Suleiman Hamid told Diyaruna.
"Since we returned to Jalawla after its liberation early last year, we found our school heavily damaged," she said. "I had to move the students to the adjacent Khalid Ibn al-Walid elementary school to complete their education there."
But that school was already suffering from overcrowding and ran on a two-shift schedule, morning and afternoon, Hamid said, adding that with the additional number of students, they had to add an evening shift to accommodate everyone.
"This was very tiring for our students and affected their educational level. It was also exhausting to the teaching staff," according to Hamid.
In order to avoid a repeat of last year's scenario, Hamid took the initiative to launch a voluntary campaign for the reconstruction of the school with the help of parents, she said.
"Many parents responded to the call and we started to work with builders in the rehabilitation of the school at my own expense and with the help of small donations we received from citizens," she said, adding that it cost them 10 million Iraqi dinars ($8,600) to rebuild the school.
"The school is back in service now," Hamid said, adding that the school will able to absorb more students in the future.
"We also tried with this initiative to ease the burden on the state and contribute to promoting popular voluntary initiatives based on the principle of collective participation in nation-building," she said.
Power of volunteering
"This initiative underlines the sense of belonging to the homeland and citizens' spirited desire to erase all traces of terrorism similar to the mettle of our hero soldiers on the battlefields," Jalawla district director Jacob Youssef told Diyaruna.
The school had been "almost completely destroyed", he said, noting that the administration wing and four classrooms were fully damaged while the remaining buildings and facilities sustained damages to varying degrees.
"But with the efforts of [Principal] Leila and benevolent residents, the school was reconstructed and it is now even better than before," he said.
The district administration supported those efforts by providing all administrative approvals to complete the work, Youssef added.
"This is not the first time that the people of Jalawla have contributed to the rehabilitation of public facilities destroyed by ISIL," he said.
Residents already participated in "repairing one of the important bridges in the city, and before that, they volunteered in cleaning the city and removing the remnants of war from its streets", he said.
Diyala provincial council member Khodr Muslim commended the initiative.
"We encourage such voluntary initiatives and consider them very necessary, especially at this stage when the country is going through economic hardships and the state is not able to finance all construction projects," he told Diyaruna.
"Today, we need the participation of all residents and the support of local and international organisations and donor countries to accelerate the momentum of construction and repair all service facilities," he said.