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U.N. says sanctions hit Iraq's schools, children

WIRE:06/14/2000 05:30:00 ET
U.N. says sanctions hit Iraq's schools, children

 BAGHDAD, June 14 (Reuters) - A senior U.N. official
said on  Wednesday international economic sanctions
were depriving Iraq's  schools and forcing children
into work instead of education.  
Anupama Rao Singh, country director for the U.N.
Children's  Fund (UNICEF), said Iraq, where
petrodollar wealth once provided  universal primary
education, lacked even the basics for  teaching.  

She said children were leaving school in droves to
earn  money for their families that were suffering
under economic  sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990
invasion of Kuwait.  

"Only 67 per cent of children aged six start going to 
school...That means that out of every three
six-year-olds in  Iraq only two are enrolling in
school," Rao Singh told Reuters.  

She said more than 90 percent of six-year olds
attended  school in the late 1990s, before the
imposition of sanctions.  

School buildings needed urgent attention. Rao Singh 
estimated that about 55 per cent of schools were
unable to  deliver good teaching because of
dilapidated buildings.  

According to Iraq's education ministry, 8,000 schools 
required structural work and 5,000 new schools were

Some schools run two or three shifts a day to cope.  

Rao Singh said lack of water, poor sanitation,
substandard  equipment and a shortage of teachers had
contributed to the  rising dropout rate.  

Teaching standards had declined due to overcrowding,
lack of  maintenance and shortages of textbooks,
stationary and paper.  

The government used to supply pupils with all their 
schooling needs but now parents had to boy most

"There has been a massive impoverishment of the Iraqi 
people and families are finding it increasingly  meet some of the costs of education,"
Rao Singh said.  


Before the sanctions, Iraq used to spend millions of
dollars  on schooling. In 1988, for instance, the
Iraqi government  invested around $230 million on

Under the U.N. oil-for-food programme established to 
mitigate the impact of sanctions, $23 million has been
earmarked  for education annually and it must all be
spent on goods.  

Rao Singh said cash was also needed for areas like
teacher  training. In order to make up some of the
shortage, UNICEF is  using its own money.  

"We have since 1997 refurbished or reconstructed 300 
schools primarily in Dhiqar (province in southern
Iraq), Baghdad  and Basra...with at least another 50
planned for this year,"  Rao Singh said.  

"On average we spend about $1.5 million every year on 
eduction (in Iraq)."  

Rao Singh said money allocated under Iraq's
oil-for-food  deal with the United Nations was not
enough to meet education  requirements. The oil
programme allows Iraq to sell oil over six  months on
a renewable basis to buy food, medicine and other 
humanitarian needs.  

UNICEF and other aid groups are trying to stem the
drain of  children from schools, helping to finance
work on dilapidated  buildings and supplying new text
books and equipment. 


Iraq Resource Information Site

American Intifada

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