IRAQ: School master of Arbca-Ilo Elementary School in Ankawa calls on Chaldeans-Syriacs-Assyrians to stick to homeland, language and identity

ANKAWA, Iraq — Saad Boya is deeply concerned about the survival of his Syriac language in Iraq. Boya is the school master of the Arbca-Ilo Syriac Elementary School in Ankawa, Erbil. His native language has given the city its name, as the name Erbil is the derived compound of the Syriac “Arbca-Ilo” or “four-gods”). It is also the name of his school. 

In an interview with the website Amkabaad, the school master expresses his concerns about the declining situation of his school. It was established in 1993 with the aim of preserving the Syriac mother tongue and providing education in the Syriac language. But there is a lack of everything, of qualified teachers and of pupils. “The school even lacks good accommodation of its own,” said Boya to Amkabaad. It was and remains housed in the buildings of other schools. 

“The number of teaching staff in Syriac studies has significantly declined. Teachers have retired and there is not enough recruitment of new teachers. This is despite the fact that there are three batches of graduates in Syriac studies.” Boya added that there is only one qualified lecturer, graduated from the Faculty of Education of the Syriac Language Department, at his school. 

Emigration to the U.S., Australia and Europe, the lure of private schools, and the desire of Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian parents for their children to learn English, are among the main reasons pupils are not enrolled at Arbca-Ilo Elementary School. Parents no longer want their children to study in the Syriac language and enroll them in other local schools. The number of students has declined significantly since its establishment in 1993. In its best days it had some 200 pupils.

“We blame some of the families who think that Syriac studies have no future,” said Boya. “With all due respect; their thinking is wrong. Since the opening of the school, we have had dozens of students who completed their further education at the Ur Syriac High School, and then went to university to study Medicine, Engineering and other subjects. And with high average grades.” 

“A while ago, a piece of land was allocated in the Al-Askari neighborhood in Ankawa. But because of the high costs, building a school there was not approved.” He added that he still hopes to become a special school so that they can provide better and more teaching services.  

Boya called on the Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian parents to encourage their children to join Syriac schools. “If we do not encourage our children to join Syriac schools, who will? The educational staff in our school gives our children special care.”