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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

IRAQ: Extra semester for Fallujah students

FALLUJAH, 22 March 2005 (IRIN) - Some Iraqi NGOs are calling on the Ministry of Education to add a summer semester for students from Fallujah city to make up for lost academic time as a result of schools closing during the November 2004 to January 2005 conflict between insurgents and US-led Coalition troops.

"We think it's very important for our students, as their education was cut off and by adding more semesters or a summer semester will really help them catch up," Abd al-Hassen Sha'aban, the director of Human Rights and Democracy, an Iraqi NGO, told IRIN in Baghdad.

"We raised our concerns for the families of Fallujah through the local newspapers and local NGOs to induce the ministry to do something about this," he continued.

According to officials, the education situation is critical in Fallujah as many primary and secondary schools, and even kindergartens, were destroyed.

"Still, many students live in camps outside the city and they are suffering from a difficult life. We tried to help pupils as much as we can and adding more semesters will help them to finish the curriculum," Mohamed Jasem, a primary teacher in Fallujah, told IRIN.

"I do not want to lose out in my studies. I have lost enough of my relatives in the combat, I would like to succeed despite the difficulties we face and the narrow crowded classes we study in," Waked al Dulamia, a high school student from Fallujah, told IRIN.

Fallujah was devastated by a US-led attack that began on 8 November 2004, which left more than 90 percent of official buildings, houses and schools destroyed and about 200,000 people displaced, according to aid agencies.

"We had to use big tents as school for our students or use one building for three schools to ensure study for most of the students in the city," Hekmet al-Ani, director of education directorate in Fallujah, told IRIN. He added that putting on a summer semester was one of the priorities for this academic year.

Reports from the education ministry about Fallujah show that only eight destroyed schools have been reconstructed so far, while more than 80 schools have not been, with another 12 being occupied by Iraqi National Guards or the US army.

A report by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 100,000 children from Fallujah and the surrounding host communities were at risk of losing their entire academic year because of the conflict.

"The ministry has put together a complete plan to continue the academic year in Fallujah, we add six more weeks in the summer holiday to cover the missing period of studying during the combat," Abd al Alah Naji al Jumayli, general director of sports and education activities at the Ministry of Education in Baghdad, told IRIN.

Sha'aban said he was happy that there were signs that the ministry had responded to their request: "We know the big tragedy and the suffering of Fallujah students, we are trying to make contact with other local NGOs in Fallujah to help the ministry in applying the plan."

Themes: (IRIN) Children, (IRIN) Education, (IRIN) Governance

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This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2005



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