May 22, 2004

How much does Dubya's administration care about education in Iraq?

We have some items for your consideration.

First, here's part of Dubya's weekly radio address from October 18, 2003:

During the decades of Saddam Hussein's oppression and misrule, all Iraqis suffered, including children. While Saddam built palaces and monuments to himself, Iraqi schools crumbled. While Saddam supported a massive war machine, Iraqi schoolchildren went without text books, and sometimes teachers went unpaid. Saddam used schools for his own purposes: to indoctrinate the youth of Iraq and to teach hatred.

Under Saddam, adult illiteracy was 61 percent, and for women it was a staggering 77 percent. Iraq is a nation with a proud tradition of learning, and that tradition was betrayed by Saddam Hussein.

As part of our coalition's efforts to build a stable and secure Iraq, we are working to rebuild Iraq's schools, to get the teachers back to work and to make sure Iraqi children have the supplies they need.

Six months ago, nearly all of Iraq's schools were closed, and many primary schools lacked electrical wiring and plumbing and windows. Today, all 22 universities and 43 technical institutes and colleges are open, as are nearly all primary and secondary schools in the country....

Under Saddam, textbooks were so rare, six students had to share each one. So we're working with UNESCO to print 5 million revised and modern textbooks free of Baathist propaganda, and to distribute them to Iraqi students. By the end of the school year, there will be enough textbooks for each Iraqi student....

Noble aims, yes? Now let's look at a couple of items about how Dubya's adminstration followed through on those promises.

The first item comes from Thursday's Coalition Provisional Authority briefing:

Ambassador Bremer received word earlier this week, and it was finalized today, on ... the largest grant issued by the Bank in 30 years, a $40 million emergency grant to print new textbooks for the 2004/2005 school year here in Iraq. The World Bank grant will finance the printing and distribution of approximately 72 million textbooks for 6 million students in all provinces for the upcoming school year. This quantity covers over 600 titles for all 12 grades of the primary and secondary system.... And an additional agreement for a second grant of $60 million to finance the rehabilitation of schools is being worked out.

So it's not the US who's paying for Iraq's textbooks — it's the World Bank. (And no, the US doesn't provide all the money for the World Bank.)

Now let's go on to an AP report about the rebuilding of Iraq's universities

The United States has failed to rebuild Iraq's university system just weeks before the planned handover of control, the top American education adviser to Iraq told The Associated Press on Friday. Congress has provided only about $8 million of the $500 million needed to repair damage resulting mainly from postwar looting, and foreign governments have done little more, John A. Agresto said in an interview at Samford University, where he was scheduled to give a commencement speech Saturday.

As a result, Agresto said thousands of Iraqi university students and faculty members do not have basic supplies like desks and chairs, and teaching equipment stolen from technical schools has not been replaced.

At some vocational colleges, students learn "theoretical carpentry" because they lack tools, he said.

According to the figures in this article, the largess of Dubya's administration and its Republican allies in Congress has extended to only 0.2 % of the money that's needed to do the job.

We won't comment any further. The facts we've presented pretty much speak for themselves.

Posted by Magpie at May 22, 2004 07:39 AM | Iraq | Technorati links |