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From: Dallas Peace Center <email@example.com> FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 23, 1999 Contact: Carl Maugeri, ++ 1 (215) 241-7060 Peter Lems, ++ 1(215) 241-7170 DELEGATION FINDS IRAQI SCHOOLS IN CRISIS DUE TO SANCTIONS 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 delegation. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.) 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 -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email email@example.com, NOT the whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html