|Thousands of Iraqi schools have been seriously damaged or looted during the conflict; as a result, many now operate on a shift system, with more than one school sharing the same facilities.|
BAGHDAD, Iraq, 31 March 2005 - At the end of each school day, Selma Abbas, a veteran Iraqi teacher, prays that she will see her students return safely the next day. Amidst the constant threat of violence that permeates every aspect of daily life in Iraq, her need to pray is well founded. Thousands of schools have been seriously damaged or looted during the conflict, many now operate on a shift system, with more than one school occupying the same building, and more than half are without water or sanitation.
Still, young people are striving to remain optimistic. Shams Salih was disappointed that she could not celebrate her 15th birthday with her family and friends this year because of the curfew for the elections, but recognizes that her birthday pales in comparison to the more urgent issues at stake. “It’s far less significant when I compare it with the big hopes I pin on the future,” she says. “I dream of a free, safe and prosperous Iraq where I can live happily with my family and celebrate my birthdays with my friends.”
|Ongoing violence does not deter these girls from attending classes.|
For 17-year-old Fatima Khalid, the role of Iraq’s youth is key for the future of the country. “We have to study hard in order to rebuild the country and prepare the ground for a better future for the coming generations.”
The father of an electrical engineering student named Ali agrees. When he hears people complaining about power cuts he says: “Don’t worry! Ali and his smart colleagues are going to graduate soon and will fix the power generation plants.”
But resilience and optimism only go so far in the face of constant violence. “The cycle of deprivation, war and violence has been affecting everybody’s well-being,” says Fatima. “I cannot see big improvements in the situation.”
Under these circumstances, the dedication of students to pursue their education is inspiring. “I studied very hard for my mid-year exams despite the constant violence, cold weather and long power cuts – even kerosene lamps and heaters were idle during the examination period because of fuel shortages,” says Rana.
|Iraqi teachers do their best to bridge the gap left by years of conflict and war.|
Yasmeen Nazar, a first-year student at the College of Law in Baghdad, believes that the restoration of security is the only solution. “I never realized the importance of security until it was gone; now I know that it’s more important than anything else,” she says. “I dream of walking in safe streets and not worrying constantly that something bad has happened to my family.”
The students’ unwavering commitment will not be enough to counteract the effects of years of war if major improvement to the schools and curricula are not implemented. “Iraq lags far behind many countries in the world and in the region,” says Ms. Abbas. “We can only bridge this big gap by giving our children access to knowledge and information.”
The State of the World’s Children 2005 focuses on childhood, defined as the state and condition of a child’s life. The report identifies armed conflict as one of the main threats to childhood, along with poverty and HIV/AIDS. Read more on how armed conflict threatens childhood.