On September 20, 2023, a grand opening ceremony unfolded at the Catholic University of Erbil (CUE), signifying the inauguration of a new public library: Vision Library – CUE. This remarkable project, funded by Vision Education, a pioneering local firm dedicated to transforming the educational landscape in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). This project serves not only to foster education but also exemplify the region’s unity and cultural diversity.
The event brought together a prestigious gathering of senior officials from both within and beyond the KRI, including representatives of various religious groups, diplomats, writers, academics, and students. It symbolized the commencement of a remarkable journey toward intellectual empowerment, enlightenment, and the paramount importance of knowledge and peaceful coexistence.
A vision turned reality
The Vision Library – CUE project was an ambitious undertaking, executed between July 15, 2021, and August 1, 2022. Vision Education’s investment manifested in a state-of-the-art library spanning a vast area of 2,650 square meters, with 2,195 square meters allocated for its internal space. This architectural marvel was thoughtfully designed to accommodate up to 600 readers daily, further emphasizing its role as a hub for academic exploration and intellectual discourse.
The library’s collection is a treasure trove, boasting a capacity for 20,000 books and academic resources, including textbooks and references spanning various fields, such as medicine, science, and technology as well as social studies and the humanities. Notably, the collection extends to encompass works detailing the diverse religious, cultural, and historical aspects of Iraqi and Kurdish societies. Contributions from prominent figures, societies, and religious leaders have fortified the library’s holdings, and the expectation is that more generous donations will continue to enrich its offerings.
The Vision Library – CUE proudly embraces the digital age as well print materials. The library includes a number of internet-connected laptops with access to the Vision Library electronic system and several vital subscriptions to digital libraries, such as JSTOR, IEEE, Research4Life, and EBSCOhost, providing an entryway to to a vast array of scholarly resources.
To cater to the unique needs of students and academics, the library features three private study rooms, ideal for postgraduate students and academic staff or for facilitating individual meetings between students and their mentors. The library also houses a large multipurpose hall with a 128-person capacity that can host educational activities and meetings.
Architecturally, the Vision Library – CUE is nothing short of spectacular, with its design, structure, and organization creating an inspiring atmosphere for study and reading. To ensure a conducive environment for learning, the library is equipped with continuous electricity, lighting, air conditioning, and internet access. While the main reading and study areas maintain a no-food, no-drinks policy, a canteen and coffee machines are conveniently available nearby.
The library opens its arms to CUE students and academic staff, as well as those from other universities in the KRI and Iraq. Importantly, it is open to the public, welcoming individuals from the community to partake in the wealth of knowledge it offers. Operating five days a week, from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm – with the schedule to be expanded soon – the library aligns seamlessly with the CUE’s commitment to diversity and peaceful coexistence, warmly inviting students, academics, and people of varying religious, cultural, and educational backgrounds.
Keynote addresses steal spotlight
At the inauguration ceremony, the audience was treated to a series of enlightening speeches, each reflecting the values of unity and education, and the enduring power of knowledge. Among the notable speakers were Archbishop Bashar Warda, CUE Chancellor and Chairman of the Board of Trustees; Dr. Abdulfattah Abdulrazaq, Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG); and Sara Salahaddin Mustafa, CEO of Vision Education.
Archbishop Warda opened the event with a heartfelt address, emphasizing the transformative power of knowledge. He conveyed his belief that Vision Library – CUE would be a beacon of light, not only for students but for the entire population of the KRI and Iraq. He also took a moment to thank KRG President Nechirvan Barzani for his generous support to the university through Vision Education.
“We are establishing a library with roots as deep as our common heritage. Vision Library – CUE is the next step in preserving and protecting our vision in an educated future for our people. It is very appropriate that this vision would come from Kurdistan these days and spread all over Iraq,” Archbishop Warda said. “May Vision Library – CUE be a bright light for our students and the people of Kurdistan and Iraq as a whole.”
Dr. Abdulrazaq lauded Vision Education for its role in the project.
“I commend the voluntary initiative of Vision Education Company for building such a state-of-art public library in the KRI, and most of all, at the CUE, where today the representative of all religious groups, not only Christians, are gathered, emphasizing the strength of peaceful coexistence in the region. Vision Education has realized great and impactful initiatives in education and the higher education sector in such a short span of time since its establishment,” the Kurdish deputy minister emphasized.
Finally, Mustafa extended her gratitude to everyone who had contributed to the project’s realization and reiterated the significance of knowledge and education in shaping a brighter future for the KRI. She honored the sacrifices of Kurdish writers and their unwavering dedication to preserving the Kurdish language and identity and highlighted Vision Education’s commitment to supporting students as well as its collaborative efforts with universities and schools in the region. She concluded with an invitation for further support to enrich the Vision Library through book donations.
“Our youth have withstood many hardships, and they have always pushed through the challenges, even though most of these challenges were the products of the decisions of the previous generations. The Kurdish youth are smart, talented, and skilled. Therefore, we are obligated to provide them with support and a healthy learning environment. Let’s trust them,” she continued.
“At Vision Education, we strongly believe that education is the foundation for building a country. We invest in those organizations that are leaders in social change through strengthening the individuals in our society. Today, our presence at the CUE is living proof of this truth. This project is one of the most important outcomes of Vision Education.”
Mustafa also thanked Vision Education Chairman Idris Nechirvan Barzani, stating that his vision for the future of Kurdistan inspires the team and his endless support is a source of encouragement for the company.
The Vision Library – CUE stands as a testament to the transformative power of education and knowledge. This visionary initiative by Vision Education is a bridge to a brighter, more informed future for the people of the KRI and a model for educational progress and unity, which transcends borders and inspires us all.
Vision Education: catalyst for educational advancement
Vision Education, the driving force behind this monumental project, is a local trailblazer in the education sector of the KRI. Founded in 2018 in Erbil, its vision revolves around instigating positive change through education. The company’s mission encompasses supporting educational institutions and empowering individuals, enabling them to become responsible citizens capable of catalyzing constructive transformations within their communities.
In the realm of higher education, Vision Education has played a pivotal role in supporting numerous public and private universities in the KRI, including the University of Kurdistan - Hewler (UKH), the CUE, the University of Zakho, and the Salahaddin University - Erbil. The company has also been instrumental in awarding hundreds of scholarships to students, ensuring their continued educational journey and, ultimately, their contributions to the nation.
Beyond universities, Vision Education’s footprint extends to primary and secondary education by constructing and renovating many public schools, creating a nurturing learning environment for the youth, who are the future of the region.
In a recent momentous collaborative effort, Vision Education partnered with the KRG Ministry of Education to deliver requested necessities to over 500 public schools in the Soran Autonomous Administration area, directly impacting more than 65,000 students. The company’s commitment to the cause of education and the profound influence it exerts on the future of the KRI is truly awe-inspiring. This unyielding dedication resonates through every facet of their work, leaving an indelible mark on the educational landscape and the aspirations of the entire region.
Mewan Dolamari is Journalist, MA in International Studies at the University of Kurdistan - Hewler (UKH).