The Kurdish Globe
By Zakaria Muhammed--Erbil
Outdated textbooks and lack of lab instruments keep the department one step behind the rest of the scientific world.
Unlike the days of old, Salahaddin University's geology department is now considered one of the most vital of the university. Applicants increased when oil drilling ramped up in Kurdistan Region following the 2003 fall of the former Baath Regime. And many Kurdish geologists who were jobless before 2003 now work at the Ministry of Natural Recourses and oil companies.
The department, which is an important part of SU's College of Science, was founded in 1977. It currently has 50 instructors and 340 undergraduate students.
Students study for four years while the basics of geology along with mathematics, physics, chemistry and English are taught in the first two years. Only geology is taught the final two years.
"When we talk about geology, people only think of oil. Geology doesn't deal with oil only; it has a lot to do with water, dams, formation of earth and many other things. Geology is known as the mother of all sciences due to its strong interaction and relations with other sciences," said Awara Ibrahim, rapporteur of SU's geology department.
In addition to theoretical classes, according to Ibrahim, students take science field trips to the mountains to examine rocks and surface materials, conduct geological surveys, construct geologic maps, and use instruments to analyze Earth's structure and processes. They also work in the laboratory to examine chemical and physical properties of Earth's materials, and they study fossil remains.
"We wanted to divide the department into two specialties in order for students to choose what specialty to pursue during their last two years. But the idea failed due to shortage of devices and instruments in the lab, and lack of sufficient budget," noted Ibrahim.
A large amount of money annually is allotted to send students to obtain master's and doctoral degrees from external universities. Ibrahim believes some money has to be allocated for labs and examining tools.
Asked who should support the geology department, Ibrahim said, "The Ministry of Higher Education and Ministry of Natural Recourses should pay better attention to our department. I spent over US$5,000 for the slides I formed when I was working on my master's degree. My department receives only $80 as a monthly budget which is only enough for stationery."
Despite the importance of the science, students and even instructors of the department suffer lack of basic needs to practice what is studied theoretically.
Nazik Hussein, a second-year student, said, "We have shortages of devices and instruments in the lab. Geology is a tough science that takes a lot of hard work to be understood. We can't work hard if we don't have modern labs and progressive instruments for analyzation purposes. We don't have enough scientific trips to recognize the materials and rocks we study in the textbooks."
In spite of being satisfied with her teachers' performances, Hussein thinks the information students receive from teachers and textbooks isn't enough to do research and understand the science. "Most of our textbooks are old or outdated. We face difficulties while searching on websites as we can't get the links that deal with modern geology."
Although job opportunities are ample for geologists in Kurdistan Region, new graduates usually either stay jobless or resort to work outside of their expertise. Most of the companies hire only those with over five years of experience.
Naz Aziz is another second-year student who wants to work after graduation in a place where her skills as a geologist are needed. "I'd like to become a teacher and teach geology. I happened to notice geology nowadays is studied in the secondary schools, but those who teach the subject are either graduates of chemistry or physics."
Aziz wonders why the government doesn't appoint geology graduates as teachers in the schools. In Aziz's view, a tough subject like geology should be taught only by those who are geologists.