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‘Beyond School Books’ – a podcast series on education in emergencies

Podcast #9: Education under pressure in Iraq

© UNICEF Iraq/2008/Arar
A girl walks through the rubble of her destroyed classroom at the Baghdad Primary School in Sadr City.

NEW YORK, USA, 15 September 2008 – The ongoing conflict in Iraq continues to have a devastating impact on children and schools there. Insecurity and violence have forced teachers to flee, kept students at home and, in some cases, closed schools completely. An education system that was once one of the best in the region is now struggling to provide basic services and keep students safe. Many young people have watched fellow classmates either leave the country or simply stop coming to school.

“We were 35 students and now we are seven – two girls and five boys,” says Zuhal Sultan, who studies music in Baghdad. “And we don't have enough teachers to cover every subject.”

UNICEF’s Chief of Education at the support center for Iraq in Jordan, Mette Norstrand, agrees that finding teachers is challenging but says that more support systems are being put in place to encourage them back to the classroom.

“Now the Ministry of Education is taking this quite seriously,” she notes, “and we are holding training courses for master trainers and teachers so they can be better equipped to deal with problems inside the classroom.”

‘A huge achievement’

Teachers and students inside Iraq, who are managing to keep some semblance of a normal school life, often face overwhelming and life-threatening obstacles.

“Daily life is so difficult, so constrained by fear of assassination, kidnapping, bombing, that to continue to do something as simple as go to school and study music is heroic,” says journalist George Packer. “It's a huge achievement.”

With continued insecurity and a lack of teachers, how are Iraqi youths continuing their studies? How is the international community helping to support and transform the education system? What are the particular obstacles that female students face?

Click here to listen to a UNICEF Radio podcast discussion on education in Iraq, featuring these guests:

George Packer, staff writer for The New Yorker and author of ‘The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq’; Zuhal Sultan, a 17-year-old student at the Music and Ballet School of Baghdad, and pianist with the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra; and Mette Norstrand, Chief of Education, UNICEF Support Center for Iraq.




Podcast #9: Education under pressure in Iraq: Amy Costello speaks George Packer, Zuhal Sultan and Mette Norstrand about Iraqi youths’ struggle to study amidst war.
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