IRAQ: Ministry to insure and protect professors
BAGHDAD, 8 July 2007 (IRIN) - The Iraqi Ministry of Finance is to give life insurance to university professors following an increase in the number of lecturers leaving the country because of violence. The initiative will also include providing university teaching staff with personal bodyguards.
“Professors are being targeted on a daily basis and they are fleeing the country, leaving a gap in the educational system,” said Marwan Imad, a press officer for the finance ministry. “They will be offered life insurance and bodyguards chosen by themselves.”
“They will receive a special budget so that they can hire bodyguards from private companies who will protect them and in case anything happens to them, their families will receive enough money to support themselves,” Imad added.
According to Imad, the initiative aims to protect professors and also to convince university teaching staff who have fled Iraq to return and continue teaching at universities. The Ministry of Higher Education has expressed serious concern that most qualified professionals have left Iraq.
“In addition to the escalation in sectarian violence, most of the professors in our country have fled and [we] depend on the few who have remained as well as on recent graduates,” Ahmed Abdel-Barri, a senior official at the education ministry, said. “The problem is critical today and maybe when lectures start next September it could get worse.”
According to the ministry, the State Insurance Company is offering professors ‘full insurance’ but it did not specify how much the compensation is going to be.
“The aim of the policy is to contribute to the alleviation of the danger of military operations and their impact on Iraqi families,” a finance ministry statement released last week said.
Precise figures are difficult to obtain but more than 240 university professors have been killed since the US-led invasion in 2003 and thousands have fled abroad, according to Abdel-Barri.
The violence in the country is such that in May 2005, the interior ministry gave doctors the right to carry weapons for self-defence.
“The life insurance is a good thing because at least if something happens to us, our families are going to be protected,” Dr Rafid Muhammad, a professor at Baghdad University’s College of Medicine, said. “It is a noble initiative which I believe can help more professionals return home.”
Copyright © IRIN 2007
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