BAGHDAD, 17 June 2003 - In Iraq, getting all children back to school continues to be the goal that UNICEF and its partners strive for. However, UNICEF is deeply concerned by the lack of security prevailing in most parts of the country.
Consequently, insecurity continues to keep attendance levels, particularly of girls, to unacceptably low levels. Attendance rates fluctuate between areas and schools; it is estimated at 60%, which is still far below pre-war levels.
In the immediate future, ensuring the organization of final exams across the country is a daunting challenge. Preparations for the final exams due to start on June 21 are continuing.
Precautionary security measures are being planned along with the educational and logistics issues related to the organization of the final exams. Parents need to be reassured that their children will be safe while taking their exams.
UNICEF, the Ministry of Education, representative of the police have reviewed safety issues such as costs for transport of exams, student IDs, communication, and extra police escorts.
Ensuring the security of students, especially girls, is accepted by all partners.
UNICEF has funded the printing of 15 million exam booklets and some of the booklets are already being delivered to the governorates.
Some schools and exam centers are currently occupied by coalition forces and used as military bases. In other instances, schools are being used as headquarters by new political parties.
So far, UNICEF has distributed 500 School in a Box Kits (SIBKs) to schools benefiting 40,000 students and 1,000 teachers.
In the meantime, initial rehabilitation of schools, particularly in Baghdad, has started. UNICEF is co-ordinating with partners, including US private sector companies, for the rehabilitation of 2000 schools over this summer. Part of the Japanese government’s latest contributions to UNICEF will cover the rehabilitation of 350 schools.
Some of the schools will be used as child friendly space/zone. These spaces will be used to provide recreational activities and counseling for children. In addition, promotion of health/hygiene practices will take place.