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Mustafa's Story
May 2003
Age: 12 years

Imagine coming to school and finding the library burnt down, broken furniture scattered round the classrooms and broken glass covering the floors.

That is what 12-year-old Mustafa discovered the day he was allowed back to the school that had been his haven from the crazy war taking place outside the classroom.

On his first day back at Ninewa Boys' Primary School after it was closed for a month during the worst days of the war, Mustafa padded around classrooms, carefully avoiding broken glass while trying to clean up the mess.

Mustafa's school, which he describes as his second home, was smashed and stripped of everything by looters following the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003.

That second home was in a bad state when Mustafa and his friends arrived - hardly a window was intact, wiring was ripped from the walls, bare wires poked out of electrical sockets, the library was burned to a shell and the assembly hall was a clutter of broken chairs.

A classroom in that state would be declared unsafe in New Zealand. But in Iraq, education is so precious that the teaching staff returned and within a short time nearly all of the 600 students were back in class.

Like most of his friends, Mustafa comes from a poor family. He lives with his grandfather, who sells vegetables for a living. But he enjoys his education and his favourite subject is mathematics. One day he wants to become an electrical engineer.

World Vision has been working with schools such as Mustafa's to help them rebuild from the rubble. By replacing books, stationery and furniture and restoring libraries and gymnasiums, children like Mustafa will get the education they deserve.

Mustafa reckons the best thing will be new desks and chairs, which are essential for writing.

"And a football," he adds. "There's been no football played since we came back. We don't have a ball."