Iraqi education spending plummets under U.N. sanctions
November 19, 1999
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.
"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Books are scarce and outdated most of the time.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.
"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.
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
United Nations (UN) Foundation
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