UN sanctions imposed on Iraq in 1990 after the invasion of Kuwait badly affected education in Iraq. Following the 2003 US-led occupation, education deteriorated to dangerously low levels.
According to the UNESCO, until I989 Iraq had been allocating 5% of its budget to education. This percentage is higher than the maximum rate in developing countries which stands at 3.8%.
Tens of thousands of new schools were built across Iraq between 1960 and 1990. In the 1990s and under the UN sanctions on Iraq, the number of schools needing urgent repair in central and southern Iraq reached 8613 out of 10,334.
This number has increased after the war on Iraq in 2003. US appointed Iraqi authorities have started a campaign to reconstruct Iraqi schools.
Muzhir al-Dulaymi, spokesman for the League for the Defence of Iraqi Peoples' Rights, told Aljazeera.net contracts for reconstructing schools in Iraq were not adequate to upgrade educational premises to the required standard.
"Companies are winning bids worth millions of dollars to reconstruct schools, but in fact schools have only been painted. No improvement to the infrastructure, and no new equipment has been brought." said al-Dulaymi.
Aljazeera's correspondent in Baghdad said the painting was not exactly part of the reconstruction plan, but was carried out to change the characteristics of Saddam Hussein's time.
Iraqi school during wave of
resistance attacks last November
"Schools were painted to wipe out slogans on school walls put up during the Saddam Hussein era" said Harif.
Anmar al-Azzawi, an Iraqi citizen,said students had seen nothing new in their schools, although ministry of education officials promised many new changes.
"Schools were only painted. My children have received the same torn books, and none of the stationery Iraqi pupils used to get for free" he said.
Iraq was unable to build new schools during the 1990-2003 period of UN sanctions. In 1980, five hundred pupils attended one school, while in 2003 the number has risen to 4500 pupils for each school.
The US occupation authorities handed over the ministry of education to Iraqis last month. Al-Dulaymi said they did this to avoid the headache of having to fulfill their promises.
Some Iraqi pupils left school
for security reasons
"So … they handed over the ministry of education to Iraqis. The question is, are they willing to spend enough money to develop education in Iraq?" he said "will the occupation authorities give Iraqis the right to allocate enough money to reconstruct their education system? Let us see what the future brings."
Children out of school
The number of pupils under 12 who have left school in order to earn a living has significantly increased since 1990 when the UN imposed sanctions on Iraq.
UNESCO reports say that before the sanctions there were 95,692 school leavers in Iraq. But in 1999 and after nine years of sanctions 131,658 Iraqi children were out of school.
"Companies are winning bids worth millions of dollars to reconstruct schools, but in fact schools have only been painted. No improvement to the infrastructure, and no new equipment has been brought."
Muzhir al-Dulaymi, spokesman for the League for the Defence of Iraqi Peoples' Rights
The number has increased since the occupation of Iraq and is unlikely to be reduced in the near future, despite promises made by US appointed Iraqi authorities.
Leaving school before 12 was an offence in Iraq, established in the 1970s, but this law has become invalid since the collapse of the Iraqi state in April 2003.
"The number of children out of schools is not monitored anymore" Harif said.
Earning a living is not the only reason behind leaving school. The security and political situation is also a major factor.
"There are people who have stopped sending their children to school fearing they may be kidnapped" said Harif, "Also we should not forget other factors, like a large number of children have left school in Shia areas to join al-Mahdi army."