Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Iraqi "new school"

The new school year is set to begin in Iraq, and it should be a school year like none other.

This is the beginning of a new era, with a new vision for education," said Education Minister Aladin Alwan, as he opened a teacher-training seminar last week. "We have to rebuild and reorient our education system."

Most of Iraq's schools and colleges have emerged from 13 years of international sanctions and a wave of postwar looting in pitiful shape, stripped of even the simplest teaching aids.

Two generations of underpaid, undermotivated teachers hemmed in by the former Baathist government's ideological restrictions have given their classes a "rigid, shallow, and passive" education, in the words of Leslye Arsht, a US adviser at the Ministry of Education.

The first task has been simply to get Iraq's schools and universities ready to receive students.

At the Al Rawabi school in the Al Mustansria district of Baghdad, where Mr. Hamid's 25-strong crew has been working 15 hours a day since the beginning of the month, that means giving the whole place a complete makeover.

"It hadn't been looted, but it was like all schools in Iraq," Hamid says. "The ceiling was leaking, all the tiles and windows were broken, some of the doors were missing. We've put in new plumbing, new toilets, rewired everywhere, laid new floors in the classrooms, and repainted. It makes me happy to do this kind of work for the kids' future."


Equipping the schools will take longer. As a first step the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is handing out to each of Iraq's 1.5 million secondary school children a blue canvas satchel filled with workbooks, pencils, ballpoint pens, an eraser, a ruler, a protractor and compasses, and a pocket calculator, all loudly emblazoned with the USAID logo.


Those kids who do show up will find some things missing from their schoolbooks, mainly the once pervasive portraits of Saddam Hussein.

An Education Ministry committee has been through more than 500 textbooks, excising all references to the former dictator and his Baath party from pictures, poems, texts, and math problems.

Math problems?

Fear not Senator Patty Murray, we have taken a page out of bin Laden's play book after all.


Post a Comment

<< Home