BAQUBA - The alarming security situation in Diyala province north of Baghdad
has killed off much of the education system.
The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq had at first brought hope. Salaries were increased:
a newly appointed primary or secondary school teacher was given 200,000 Iraqi
dinars, or about $150 a month.
In September 2006, the Ministry of Education increased teachers' salaries by
20 to 50 percent in an attempt to entice them to stay in their jobs.
But in Diyala's capital, Baquba, 40km north of Baghdad, lack of security means
many teachers have quit, and children are not going to school.
This is a trend across Iraq. According to a report released last year by the
non-governmental group Save the Children, 818,000 children of primary school
age, representing 22 percent of Iraq's potential student population, were not
"We suffer so much because of the problem just of going from home to school;
no one can easily move in the streets," Layla Hussein, a secondary school
teacher, told IPS in Baquba. "The militants are everywhere."
The security situation remains volatile despite massive U.S.-led military operations
to rid Diyala province of militiamen, al-Qaeda, and resistance fighters.
"Day after day our education system is in decline," primary school
teacher Juma'a Jabur told IPS. "One should ask who will benefit from stoppage
of school work, and from keeping the boys and girls at home."
Sectarian militias have regularly entered schools, and no guard has dared stand
in their way.
"Sometimes, they come to ask about Shia teachers, or even about Sunnis,"
Nasir Hamza at the directorate-general of education told IPS. "Shia teachers
have stopped coming to school for fear of being killed by the militants."
As a result, Hamza said, many teachers have stopped coming to work. "The
staff is not enough, so we had to start cutting classes."
Scores of teachers have been killed in Diyala province, said Hamza. Many schools
have ceased to function entirely.
"The head of the school and his assistant may be threatened and forced
to stay home or to quit, so one of the teachers becomes the head in order to
keep work moving," a member of the local council of Baquba, speaking on
the condition of anonymity, told IPS. "As a result, no good outcomes can
be attained on the level and performance of the pupils."
Displacement as a result of violence has also taken its toll on education.
"All the teachers who work in schools located outside their villages or
cities have asked to be moved to schools near their homes because of the difficulty
in getting anywhere," Hatam Abi, department manager at the directorate-general
of education in Baquba, told IPS. "As much as we can, we do move all the
teachers near their homes."
While the level of violence is down in Diyala for the moment, other difficulties
afflict the education system. Examination papers did not reach pupils in many
Diyala schools earlier this year. And the results were extraordinary.
"What happened is that the pupils faked their answers; all the pupils
in the same class had the same answers," said Jabur.
"The teachers who were in charge of monitoring the pupils allowed the
pupils to share the answers under threat," a teacher told IPS on the condition
The result of all this will be serious, the teacher said. "This has happened
for the first time in the history of Iraq, and it will have a direct effect
on a whole generation."