UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
IRAQ: Security forces assigned to protect students during exams
BAGHDAD, 25 May 2006 (IRIN) - Security forces will be deployed in all major cities with the aim of protecting the more than five million students bracing to take their final exams, officials from the Ministry of Education said on Wednesday.
“Our ministry is cooperating with the ministries of interior and defence in order to protect exam centres, mainly in Baghdad's more restive areas,” said Minister of Education, Dr Khudier al-Khuza'i, in his first ministry press conference. “Every student has the right to take his or her exams in a safety.”
Al-Khuza'i went on to demand that all political and religious posters be removed from school premises, vowing to punish those teachers attempting to promote political and religious ideologies. “There are some political parties trying to politicise the schools for their own benefit,” he said. “This won’t be tolerated – schools should be centres for imparting knowledge.”
The torrent of violence that has swept through Baghdad and surrounding provinces since the 2003 US-led invasion has left few unaffected. What were once institutions of learning have since become places of fear, undercutting efforts to rebuild the dilapidated education system left by Saddam Hussein.
According to a report about threats against schools and students killed issued on 28 February by the education ministry, 64 Iraqi schoolchildren have been killed by bombs, rockets, mortar shells and machine-gun fire between last November and February. At least 169 teachers and 84 other school employees have been killed in the same period.
Additionally, attacks and frequent threats have resulted in the intermittent closing of hundreds of schools, further disrupting the education of thousands of children. Violence has been mainly concentrated in the capital and in the volatile provinces of Anbar, Diyala and Babil, according to the report.
Parents, meanwhile, many of whom have been afraid to send their children to school in an atmosphere of increasing violence, expressed their approval of the decision. “I didn’t know whether I should send my kids to school or not,” said 42-year-old Ibtisam Jassim, whose three daughters attend an elementary school in Baghdad's Mansour district. “But now I feel they’ll be safe.”
Khalid Zamil, a 16-year-old secondary-school student, however, was less sanguine, saying that he feared insurgents “would not refrain from attacking security forces guarding schools.”
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