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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

IRAQ: Insecurity threatens to leave students with late start

BAGHDAD, 10 August 2005 (IRIN) - The start of the academic year for schools and universities in Iraq could be delayed by widespread insecurity, especially if a surge in terrorist attacks derails or delays the constitutional drafting process, according to local government officials.

“If the situation of insecurity in the country worsens still further and there is a delay in the presentation of the new constitution, we are going to be forced to delay the educational year to guarantee the security of students countrywide, as well as of teachers and other staff," said Ahmed Abdul Rahman, a senior official in the Ministry of Education.

The draft constitution is due to be completed on 15 August, after which it is to be referred to the National Assembly for debate.

A deteriorating security situation in Iraq has caused parents to fear for students going to school, and also increased teachers’ concern for their own safety, according to Abdul Rahman.

“Each day, more attacks are happening [somewhere] in the country,” Abdul Rahman said.

“The capital, Baghdad, has been one of the most affected areas in Iraq and, last year, the quality of our education decreased shockingly,” he added. “We may not have any other choice than to delay the current academic year in schools.”

The school year is due to start on 11 September but may have to be postponed to the end of October, local officials suggested. By then, they hope, tensions around the constitutional transition and the insecurity currently prevailing may have eased.

“The drafting of the constitution has brought an increase in insurgency attacks and disorganisation around security issues in Iraq,” said Zacarias al-Fardi, a senior official in the Ministry of the Interior.

“Differences from local senior officials’ opinions – those responsible for its writing – have elevated the disorder and terrorism attacks,” he said.

Al-Fardi said the ministry is taking all the measures it can to prevent generalised insecurity being a reason to postpone the return to school, but that the problem lay not only in its hands since insecurity is a key problem for the government and country as a whole.

Meanwhile, Iraqis suffer the ill effects of an education system under severe pressure and with declining standards.

Suheyla Hussein, 34, a Baghdad resident, complained that the combination of insecurity and educational decline was not new, and said that her children had not learned anything new in the last year.

“My daughter has passed to a new school degree,” she said, “but I can guarantee that she has not learned anything new - just few subjects, which were incomplete and without meaning,” she said.

Abdul Rahman suggested that the reason for such a bad year in education was that most teachers were afraid to stay long hours in schools, and try to finish their lessons as early as possible to get off the streets to the relative safety of their homes.

The families of many students with the means to do so have now started to search for ways to have their children educated outside Iraq – in Jordan or Syria, for instance – despite the expense involved, according to local observers.

“My husband went to Jordan searching for a possibility of getting a place for our children in their schools,” Suaad Munir, a mother of four, told IRIN in Baghdad, “because if this year continues like last year, they are not going to learn anything.

“They had more holidays and days off than days in school, learning.”

Theme(s): (IRIN) Children, (IRIN) Education

[ENDS]

 

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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