Iraq - Country in crisis

Real lives

UNICEF’s largest-ever logistics operation to support Iraqi children’s return to school in September

© UNICEF/SD/03/Sandie Blanchet
Rebekah Prole, a UNICEF staff member, packs a student kit at the UNICEF warehouse in Copenhagen. UNICEF is assembling 15,000 such kits for Iraq.

New York, 16 July 2003 – UNICEF has embarked on the largest education supply operation in its history, to help some 4 million Iraqi children go back to school in September. The operation accompanies a nationwide campaign, in co-ordination with partners including the Ministry of Education, Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and non-governmental organizations, to rehabilitate 1,000 of Iraq’s crumbling schools, subject to the availability of donor funds.

In the next two months, UNICEF aims to procure 42,000 student kits (each covering the needs of 80 children.) These kits will supply the needs of 3,360,000 children and, combined with UNICEF stocks in Baghdad, will provide essential learning  resources to all primary school children. Nearly 9,000 teacher kits (each kit for 15 teachers), more than 8,000 blackboard kits (each kit for four classes) and 8,000-plus chalk kits (enough for 4 million students for one year) are being put together.

“…There can be no wiser investment, and no greater return, than educating children, girls as well as boys. How fully they develop is a key determinant not only of their future, but of entire societies.” -  UNICEF Executive Director, Carol Bellamy

UNICEF started producing 15,000 student kits in its Copenhagen warehouse at the end of June, at the unprecedented rate of 2,500 kits per week. Each kit contains 23 different items such as pens, scissors, building blocks for small children, crayons, chalk, tape, exercise books, slates and erasers. These kits are for grades one and two primary school students.

Starting in mid-July, UNICEF will also produce the teachers’ kits and blackboard kits in Copenhagen at the rate of 3,000 kits per week. The teachers’ kit contains exercise books, a chalkboard ruler and triangle for teaching geometry, pens, a register book and a geometry set. The kit is produced specifically for Iraq.
Extra help needed

This is a massive effort for which some 20 additional warehouse staff have been hired by UNICEF at its supply headquarters in Copenhagen and a new production line put in place. However, even these measures will not be sufficient, so UNICEF is outsourcing the production of 27,000 student kits.

Three companies from China, India and Turkey have been selected to produce the kits. UNICEF places great importance on ensuring the delivery of quality kits on time and for a reasonable price. The companies will send the kits directly to Baghdad, and UNICEF Iraq and the Iraqi Ministry of Education will distribute them throughout the country.

“…There can be no wiser investment, and no greater return, than educating children, girls as well as boys. How fully they develop is a key determinant not only of their future, but of entire societies,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Carol Bellamy, on Iraq. “The power of education extends beyond the development of skills needed for economic success. It contributes to nation-building and reconciliation.”

Overcoming other obstacles

Getting all children back to school in Iraq continues to be the goal that UNICEF and its partners strive for. In addition to schools in disrepair and a lack of educational supplies, absence of security, violence, lawlessness and the collapsing economy provide additional challenges to meeting this goal and have a particular impact on girls.

© UNICEF/SD/03/Sandie Blanchet
This student kit was conceived specifically for Iraq and contains 23 different items for 80 students, including pens, scissors, coloured cubes and crayons.

UNICEF is deeply concerned by the security situation prevailing in most parts of the country. High levels of street violence and lawlessness keep school attendance levels, particularly of girls, to low levels. Attendance rates fluctuate between areas and schools but are estimated at 60 per cent on average, which is far below pre-war levels.

One of the victims of Iraq’s legacy of wars and sanctions has been girls’ attendance at school. Prior to the 1991 Gulf War, 92 per cent of girls attended school. By the start of this latest conflict, that number had dropped to just 68 per cent. This is largely because families could no longer afford to keep all their children in school, and so girls were pulled out to assist their families with household work or to look after younger siblings, while their brothers finished their schooling.

Girls' education is adversely impacted especially in rural areas, where one in three Iraqi girls are pulled out of school to assist their families with household work or to look after younger brothers and sisters.

UNICEF is working with key partners to encourage parents to enrol and keep their daughters in school till they at least complete basic education. It also supports non-formal education projects for adolescents, particularly girls, who have dropped out of school.

Girls are keen to learn

Five months ago, UNICEF began rehabilitating 12-year-old Zhara's primary school.

Zhara, 12, is determined to continue her education. This September she will be equipped with UNICEF-provided school supplies and will attend classes in a school rehabilitated with UNICEF support.

Zhara’s school was one of six primary schools serving 2,200 learners in the district that were renovated. Crumbling classrooms, flooded playgrounds and broken toilet facilities were repaired and water fountains and other essential equipment were supplied.

Zhara is keen to take advantage of the renovations, despite the surrounding difficulties. All of her female cousins dropped out of school before grade 6, but she is determined to remain in school. Zhara spends a lot of time looking after her two-year-old twin brother and sister and prepares meals for her family, but she still manages to find time for her studies.



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