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AFSC testimony to impact of sanctions on Iraqi educational system

From: Dallas Peace Center <>

April 23, 1999
Contact:        Carl Maugeri, ++ 1 (215) 241-7060
                        Peter Lems, ++ 1(215) 241-7170


PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - A delegation of U.S. teachers sent by the American
Friends Service Committee to assess the impact of economic sanctions on
the education system in Iraq found schools there in dire condition and
lacking basic necessities such as electricity, sanitation and
educational supplies. 

The educators warn that a "lost generation" of Iraqi children is
emerging whose early years are being marked by poor health and
inadequate education. 

"It was truly heart-wrenching to see the current state of the Iraqi
educational system, which was once the envy of the Arab world. And now
sanctions have stripped away those advances, stealing the future from a
generation of children," said Peter Vermilye, Principal of the Lower
School, Westtown Friends School, Westtown, Pa., and a member of the

According to Vermilye, the schools they visited were inadequately
equipped with desks, forcing many students to sit on the floor.
Further, the schools generally lacked electricity, sanitation
facilities, and basic learning equipment. 

The six members of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
delegation returned from an eight-day tour of Iraq on April 13. The
delegation, hosted by the Middle East Council of Churches and the Iraqi
Red Crescent Society, included teachers, educational administrators, and
AFSC staff and focused on gathering facts about the state of the Iraqi
educational system under United Nations economic sanctions. 

Vermilye said that most students had limited access to basic school
supplies such as pencils, paper, and textbooks and none of the schools
visited had any computers. Reduced government funding for education has
brought new school construction to a halt, resulting in decreased
classroom time and severe overcrowding. 

"Some classes number over fifty students, with recreation and
extracurricular activities dramatically reduced," said Vermilye. 

The teachers also observed that widespread malnutrition directly
attributable to the embargo is hindering students' abilities to
effectively focus on learning activities. In addition, economic pressure
has forced about 30 percent of school-aged children to drop out in order
to supplement family incomes. 

"The combination of these sanctions-related factors has caused an entire
generation of Iraqi children to receive a substandard education.  It
remains to be seen how this "lost generation" will impact the future of
Iraq," said Peter Lems, AFSC's Iraq program assistant and a member of
the delegation. 

In addition to visiting primary and secondary schools, the delegates
toured hospitals, orphanages, shelters, centers for internally displaced
persons, and juvenile detention centers. They also met with U.N. leaders
and various Iraqi government officials, including the Minister of Higher
Education, the Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, and other state and
local leaders. 

The delegation found that the economic sanctions against Iraq, imposed
in 1990, have had a devastating impact on the country's infrastructure,
affecting particularly the civilian population. Escalating poverty,
rampant inflation, inadequate nutrition, and a lack of food, medicine,
electricity, and sanitation provisions have combined to create harsh
conditions in a country that once had one of the highest standards of
living in the region. 

While various international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have
made efforts towards alleviating the school crisis, the delegation
concluded that only a complete lifting of the economic sanctions against
Iraq could prevent further deterioration of the education system and
continued widespread depravation among Iraqi children. The latest
oil-for-food report (Feb. 22, 1999) from the U.N. secretary-general
notes that, "The very modest contribution that the inputs to this sector
are making to the quality of education is a matter of concern ..."

The delegation will produce a report detailing its findings in May.  For
more information, or to receive a copy of the report when it is issued,
please contact Peter Lems at the American Friends Service Committee
(Tel: (215)  241-7170 or E-Mail: Members of the
delegation who come from various parts of the country are available for
speaking engagements and interviews upon request. 

                           # # # #  

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization which
includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice,
peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the
worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome
violence and injustice.

Carl Maugeri
Director of Media Relations
American Friends Service Committee
1501 Cherry Street
Philadelphia, Pa. 19102-1479
Phone: (215) 241-7060
Fax: (215) 241-7275

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