Interview with Mohamed Djelid, Director, UNESCO Iraq Office
- Iraq had one of the best education systems in the Middle East during the 1970s and early 1980s. Since then, the Iraqi Education System has deteriorated due to various experiences of armed conflict, sanctions and the resulting population movement.
Like everything else in Iraqi society, the education system in Iraq has been greatly affected by war, conflict and politicization of service over the past 20 years.
All available data points to a distinct regression in realizing the right to education in Iraq. This results in negative impact on other rights including the right to work, health, participation, development etc.
Education services have been struggling to cope with backlog in terms of infrastructure, of teaching knowledge and skills and of administration, due to isolation during the years of sanctions (1990-2003) followed by the effects of war.
The quality of the educational system itself has been jeopardized because a large number of professionally qualified teachers have been displaced, left the country or been killed in target attacks. It is estimated that around 300 Iraqi academics have been killed in the last five years.
• What is UNESCO doing to support the Iraqi education system?
- UNESCO has been supporting the Education Sector in Iraq by implementing several projects, which are providing equipment and also capacity-building.
It is important to gather accurate and up-to-date data for educational planning and monitoring. To assist, UNESCO supported the implementation of the Educational Management Information System (EMIS). This software has been tested and is being used to record educational data.
UNESCO also provided IT equipment to the Ministry of Education and reviewed, printed and distributed 9 million textbooks to Iraqi students.
We also re-equipped 22 TVET centers in different cities with workshops on the use of the equipment and computing capacity.
In terms of capacity-building, 30,000 teachers, curriculum developers and planners from 18 Iraqi governorates were trained, and the Organization launched a Teacher Training Network for Iraq targeting 308 academics from 4 Colleges of Education and 4 Colleges of Sciences around the country.
Through the International Fund for Higher Education in Iraq, initiated by Her Highness Sheikha Mozah, Consort of His Highness the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, we provided needed equipment to Iraqi universities and granted 300 fellowships to Iraqi professors to enable them to renew ties with the international academic community.
Most recently, on 19 October, we launched the Iraqi Educational TV Channel - Iraqi Edu. This is an important event for Iraqi students, teachers and education specialists. The channel will provide quality education to Iraqi students inside and outside Iraq, including refugees, IDPs, out of school, in school, girls, students with special needs, etc., by producing educational TV programs based on Iraqi school curricula and broadcasting them through satellite, thus overcoming time and space constraints and the prevailing security and economic conditions that are preventing students from receiving proper education.
• What are the objectives of the conference?
- The situation in Iraq needs immediate support. The conference held in Paris from 30 October to 1 November aims at raising the international community’s awareness of the challenges and needs of the Iraqi education system.
It will also explore feasible and concrete actions to be implemented in the medium-term.
By supporting education and the right to education in Iraq, we hope to make a valuable contribution towards rebuilding the country, as well as bring some hope to Iraqi society, supporting the construction of a democratic and peaceful Iraq.