The collapse of the education system

The collapse of the education system
2001. Primary school in Baghdad. Photograph: Carmen Secanella © Zoom

The collapse of the education system

In 1989 Iraq allocated 6.4% of the national budget to education, double the average for developing countries, with a 2.5 fold financial increase over 10 years, again almost double the average for developing countries. The «oil for food» programme allocated a budget for education which did not meet even 10% of basic education needs. 84% of the 10,000 education centres in the country needed renovating, and half were no longer suitable for schooling. A 1998 UNICEF report stated: 

«[The deterioration of education] includes lack of the most basic school supplies such as blackboards, chalks, pencils, notebooks and paper, inaccessibility to any water and absent or defunct sanitation. Some children deprive themselves from water and food before going to school so as not to develop the need to use a toilet. Others have to return home if the need arises. Due to shortage, up to four children may be assigned to each desk. If children have to sit on the ground, some parents do not send their child to school on the day when it is their turn.

There is no public budget for school maintenance. Broken windows, leaky roofs, and defunct latrine and washbasins remain in disrepair. Even when electric power is available, children “learn” in an atmosphere of dim light, poor ventilation and water leakage from classroom ceilings. Health and safety hazards on school grounds and in the vicinity include naked electric wires, garbage, insects and rats, and stagnant water resulting from the blockage and discharge of sewage pipes. Most schools do not have a first aid kit.» (p. 87 & 88).

The UN Security Council banned the importing of pencils due to their graphite content as this was «adaptable for military purposes». The price of a notebook or pencil was unaffordable for most families.