Introducing the “Dima Institute” , a beacon of hope for children with special needs in Najaf

Dima Institute, Najaf

Dima Institute, Najaf

Dima Institute in

Dima Institute in

Dima Institute in Action

Dima Institute in Action

A special report by by Jordanian writer Dr. Sana al-Shaalan


“Institute Dima” isn’t  a government institution, nor is it a civil institution, or a typical NGO. Instead it is an organisation that supports education,  offering  ordinary people a way of getting involved  a structured form of community service in their home country.

“Institute Dima” was created for people with special needs in Najaf Al Ashraf, Iraq by Prof. Dr. Abdul Razak Abdul Jalil al-Issa. It was created to serve people with special needs” . Prof al -Issa  is is the former head of the University of Kufa , former cultural advisor of the Iraqi Embassy in London, and present cultural advisor at the Embassy of Iraq in Jordan. He shared his aim of, ”  creating an environment, that is simple but beautiful and able to gather our children with special needs under an umbrella of learning and hope. ”

“Institute Dima” came about through the passion a mother and father had to make sure their daughter Dima, who was was borne with  Downs Syndrome, had the right kind of opportunities. The father, Prof. Dr Abdul Razak Abdul Jalil al-Issa and his wife is Dr. Anwar Kuwaiti were not able to find a place in any schools in Najaf School as none were able to accommodate children with special needs.

Everyone advised Dr Abdul Jalil and his wife to just ‘put up with it’ and keep their daughter in the house, like thousands of Iraqi children who are born and dying prisoners in their homes;  marginalised by their “crime” of having special needs. People said that Dima had no right to dream of  of books, a teacher, a blackboard and studies. The parents refused to comply with this verdict, instead giving their daughter everything they could – whilst at the same time finding a way to  change societies’ perception of special needs children and show the world that Dima can be given the rights she deserves, just the same as all of us.

So began the journey. Dr. Abdul Jalil and his wife opened the doors for dozens of children with special needs across the city who also dreamed of holding a pencil and a book. 1999 saw the registration of Dima and a group of students in special education school of Ferdos sponsored by Naima Yahia Atiya. After that Dr. Abdul Razzaq donated a whole classroom and renovations the school, which was in dire need of such repairs. The project evolved and in 2007, “Institute Dima” for people with special needs, fully opened  and was funded by Dr. Abdul Razzaq. In addition his niece Dr. Rasha Al-Lami gave all her wedding presents to the institution.  The school began to receive students and provide them with educational books and develop the childrens’ talents – free of charge. Children and their  loved ones delighted, there was finally a glimmer of light and hope uniting children and families who had been previously linked by  grief, emptiness and suffering.

“Institute Dima” stands as a shining  example – not just for the city of Najaf,  but for Iraq as a whole. Things can change, hope mustn’t and shouldn’t fade, as long as people work together.

Today while writing this, the voices of students in the “Institute Dima” chanted their song of the morning. They are exercising their right to learn and and being integrated into the community. Dima Abdul Razzaq al-Issa is now a beautiful student in the secondary stage of her education. She is like any other girl her age,  even taking part in end-of-semester examinations. She dreams of enrolling in university.

Naima Yahya Attia, Director of the Institute, says: “The Institute provides participating children with a range of programmes,  curriculum, technologies and educational services. These are all provided to help children develop skills and abilities to the maximum extent possible. There are effective care and other specialist services offered to children from age six and specialist teachers help children on their learning journey. The official Ministerial curriculum is a curriculum that is taught and children are integrated. Special needs children and their peers mingle in an inclusive environment which supports the educational process for all.

Iraq and the Arab/ Muslim parents of the world needs people like Prof. Dr. Abdul Razak Abdul Jalil al-Issa and mothers such as Dr Anwar Al Kuwaiti and Dr. Rasha Al-Lami to create hope and strength for everyone, especially our most vulnerable. Dima stands for sun and the dawn of freedom – as a message of hope for all of us.

“Institute Dima” is still funded personally by Dr Abdul Razak and Dr. Rasha Al-Lami. Even though they now live in Britain,they still want to ensure there is an open and safe place for children with special needs in Najaf.

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