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[casi] Ghazwan

It's good to see that Ghazwan is ok.

Baghdad Children in School, Saddam Images Removed
04.05.2003 [09:56]

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Samar clung to her father's side, unsure whether
it would be safe to join her friends on the first day back at school
in Baghdad after the war filled her head with fears of gunmen and

"I am very scared that they might try to shoot me again," eight-year-
old Samar said, reliving a time during the war when a gunman shot at
the car she was riding in with her father.

Samar was one of many Iraqi children who returned to school in
Baghdad on Saturday, a move hailed as another step toward restoring
some normalcy to life in the volatile country after the fall of
Saddam Hussein.

Parents stuck closely to their children on the walk to school fearful
for their safety. Once there, children kissed their teachers and sat
down in classrooms, some still covered in shards of glass from broken

"The message we wanted to convey is that we are here to rebuild our
country after the devastation and that is the most important thing,"
said Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar, a parent of a student at a Jesuit school in
central Baghdad.

"Starting up the education system whether the new government is
formed or not is the most important thing."

Schools closed down on March 20, when Washington launched a war to
oust Saddam. Baghdad fell on April 9 and now, U.S. forces and local
officials are desperately trying to restore order in a city where
lawlessness is widespread.


Teachers say the resumption of studies was only a small step toward
resolving major problems in Iraq's education system.

They call for a fundamental review of the curriculum, dominated for
decades by courses in nationalism, hailing Saddam and his
"achievements" and teaching his Baath Party ideology.

At schools on Saturday most books had pictures of the man who ruled
them with an iron fist torn out. Many schools, but not all, brought
down Saddam's portraits from classroom walls.

Teachers are also worried that with the absence of a government they
were not being paid their salaries, which might force many to find
other jobs.

Creative Associates International, the U.S.-based group that won a
contract to revitalize the Iraqi education system, has set a goal of
getting every Iraqi child back in school by October 1.

It said on Thursday its contract included providing materials such as
pens, paper, blackboards and furniture, and developing teacher-
training courses and learning courses designed to help children whose
education has been disrupted.

The group would also try to foster a more democratic education
system. However, it would not be rewriting Iraqi textbooks. That task
would be undertaken by the new Iraqi education ministry once it began

An Iraqi provisional government, once formed, would also be in charge
of paying teachers.

Teachers say they fear that many children will have nightmares and
fears that will be hard to ease.

"It is the start of trying to make life normal again," said teacher
Maha Mohammed. "It could take a long time," she said.

Mark Parkinson

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