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World - Middle East

Iraqi education spending plummets under U.N. sanctions

Schoolbooks are scarce and outdated in Iraq, and increasing numbers of children don't attend class  

November 19, 1999
Web posted at: 10:34 p.m. EST (0334 GMT)

In this story:

'Why is it that we stay still?'

'It makes me burn inside'

20 percent drop out, government says


From Correspondent Rula Amin

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.N. sanctions against Iraq are hurting more than its economy. Iraq's education system appears to be withering too.

Before 1990, Iraq used to spend more than $2 billion a year on education. After nine years of U.N. economic sanctions, Iraq is spending less than 10 percent of that money to educate a new generation.

The United States has demanded that Iraq fully disarm before the U.N. sanctions, imposed after Baghdad's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, are suspended.

VideoCorrespondent Rula Amin looks at the education system in Iraq
Windows Media 28K 80K
CNN Special - The Worlds Children

'Why is it that we stay still?'

"Why is it that all people move forward, and we stay still where we are," asked Ahmad, the best student at Baghdad's oldest high school. "We go backward, the rest of people go forward."

As a result of the funding shortage, Iraqi parents must pay substantial fees to ensure their children receive a high school education.

Books are scarce and outdated most of the time. The students don't have access to the Internet; the school is not even equipped with computers.

'It makes me burn inside'

"This school used to graduate the creme of the creme in Iraq, now look at it. It makes me burn inside," said a clerk who has worked at Ahmad's school for more than 30 years.

But some say the damage runs deeper than the school's dilapidated rooms, where some of the windows don't even have panes.

"Here you have the children growing up in severe isolation. The knowledge gap is widening, and we are putting the young people in tremendous disadvantage," said U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Hanz von Sponeck.

20 percent drop out, government says

Increasing numbers of school-age children don't attend classes at all. The Iraqi government estimates 20 percent of primary and secondary students have dropped out.

Sponeck says the result is children with fewer dreams, little inspiration or ambition. It is a generation, he says, that is unprepared to compete in a highly competitive world.

Amid isolation, Iraq's educational system deteriorates
October 14, 1999
Major U.N. powers divided on lifting Iraq sanctions
September 20, 1999
Security Council fails to agree on Iraq policy
September 23, 1999

United Nations (UN) Foundation
CIA -- The World Factbook 1999 -- Iraq
ArabNet -- Iraq
The United Nations
United Nations Agreements on Human Rights
Permanent Mission of Iraq to the United Nations
Iraqi National Congress
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