World Bank Joins School Rebuilding Campaign

By Mary Ann Zehr — April 14, 2004 2 min read
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A new player has emerged in the drive to remake education in Iraq.

The World Bank intends to make available to the Iraq Ministry of Education $40 million for the printing of textbooks and $59 million for refurbishing schools. It has also designated $700,000 to pay for the furniture, equipment, technical assistance, and training needed to manage the project. The money comes from the World Bank’s member countries, which include the United States.

The organization’s plan is expected to be approved by bank officials next month, and money should start flowing to Iraq soon thereafter, according to bank officials who answered questions by e-mail.

This past school year, two United Nations agencies printed all the textbooks distributed to children in Iraq. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, with a grant of $10 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development, printed 8.6 million math and science textbooks. The United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, printed 44.5 million textbooks for all other subjects in the curriculum. They were paid for with money from the former U.N. “oil for food” program in Iraq.

Those textbooks are newly printed versions of the ones that Iraqi students used prior to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, minus references to ousted President Saddam Hussein or his Baath Party, which were edited out by Iraqi educators. Iraq’s minister of education, Dr. Ala’din Alwan, said this month that Iraqi educators won’t rewrite Iraq’s textbooks until after the country’s curriculum is revised, which he estimates will take two or three years.

Neither UNESCO or UNICEF will print textbooks for Iraq in the coming school year, which begins in October, but rather will focus on other education activities.

UNICEF will use $12.6 million from a grant soon to be announced by the USAID to run accelerated-learning programs on a large scale for Iraq’s estimated 50,000 youngsters who haven’t been attending school. With the new grant, UNICEF also plans to equip 1,000 schools with water and sanitation facilities and latrines.

“Children don’t have safe water to drink. They don’t have toilets to visit,” said Geeta Verma, a UNICEF program officer for education in Iraq who is currently based outside of Iraq. “Girls tend to drop out of school more than boys if there are not latrines around.”

UNESCO officials said they were waiting to hear from the Iraq Education Ministry how they could best support the agency in the coming school year.

Building Aid

Along with the World Bank, the U.S. government is also poised to pour money into school repair in Iraq. The United States has proposed spending $88 million for education construction needs under a supplemental appropriation for Iraq approved last fall by Congress, according to Leslye A. Arsht, a senior adviser for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

About two-thirds of Iraq’s 15,000 school buildings need major repairs, according to Ms. Arsht.

No donors have come forward so far to pay for the construction of new schools, she added.


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