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Comments by YACCS
Saturday, December 16, 2006

What about the schools?

The Crossing Guard with AK 47

A battlefield called school
Iraq violence threatens teachers and students. Campuses are closing.
By Solomon Moore, Times Staff Writer
December 16, 2006

BAGHDAD — Iraq's schools, long touted by American officials as a success story in a land short on successes, increasingly are being caught in the crossfire of the country's escalating civil war.

President Bush has routinely talked about the refurbishment and construction of schools as a neglected story of progress in Iraq. The U.S. Agency for International Development has spent about $100 million on Iraq's education system and cites the rehabilitation of 2,962 school buildings as a signal accomplishment.

But today, across the country, campuses are being shuttered, students and teachers driven from their classrooms and parents left to worry that a generation of traumatized children will go without education.

Teachers tell of students kidnapped on their way to school, mortar rounds landing on or near campuses and educators shot in front of children.

This month insurgents distributed pamphlets at campuses, some sealed inside an envelope with an AK-47 bullet.

"To the Honest People of Baghdad," one pamphlet read, "we want you to leave the schools, hospitals, institutes, colleges and universities until the illegal government of [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri] Maliki is put down. We want your full cooperation on this."

No credible current national school attendance statistics exist in Iraq, whose education system was once considered a model in the Arab world. But examples abound of schools being closed or left mostly empty as parents flee the country or keep their children home.

Suaad Ahmed, 35, a resident of the capital's Mansour district, ran to her son's school when she heard gunfire thundering near her house. She arrived to see rival groups of gunmen firing through the schoolyard and children screaming.

"They used the garden as a battleground," Ahmed said. "They were hiding behind trees for protection and shooting."

Her kindergartner and the other children were safe — this time. But the school was closed for weeks afterward.

posted by Steve @ 8:51:00 AM

8:51:00 AM

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