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UPDATED: 09:48, October 03, 2004
School bell rings in Iraq despite insecurity
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About 5 million Iraqi students headed on October 2 for schools in an atmosphere of insecurity and fears of families that their children might become victims of a car bomb or unknown mortar attack, or be kidnapped.

"In spite of the insecurity situation that faces our country, the number of the students that attended school is very good," said Mohamed Saeed, general director of Karkh first educational region. Saeed stressed that the Ministry of Education has taken into consideration the issue of security, which has become the primary concern of all families, by consolidating protection on schools and taking measures to ensure the continuity of the educational process.

The official added that anything related to the former regime has been purged from text books, noting that the new books, to be distributed in the coming few days, were printed in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

He called on the families of the students to cooperate with the administrations to facilitate the educational process and pass the difficult time.

In Al Huriyah high school for girls, the flag-raising ceremony took place and the girls sang the Iraqi national anthem. "We start our new school year hoping to succeed, and hoping for a year full of security and stability, in spite of all those who came to murder and kill," Rajaa Dawood Salman, headmistress of the school, told her students.

"In spite of those who applauded Satan and wanted to make us a forgotten nation, you (the students) are our bet," she said. She pointed out that the Ministry of Education had assigned a number of security guards for the school in addition to two women for body-searching of the girls. The new procedure is one of the efforts that are made to give students sense of security. Sanaa Khalaf, a teacher of Arabic language in the school, said that she is worried about the deteriorating security situation in the country. However, she expressed her readiness to fulfill her duty because "the wheel of life in Mesopotamia should not stop". Khalid Wail, the headmaster of Al Razi Primary School with 876 registered students, said that security and protection will be provided for students, adding he has four security guards coming to the school one hour before the students do to search the classes and examine the outer fence for fear of planted bombs.

"I came here at eight o'clock in the morning to escort my daughter Zainab and I will stay here until she finishes school for fear that a gang might kidnap my daughter or an explosion takes place," said Mariam Mahmood, a mother of a student. "What we want most is safety for our children, I'm very worried about them," said Ayad Abdullah, a father of three. "I even leave work in the morning and bring kids to school myself. I wait for them and take them home when they finished. Then I go to work, as I cannot risk the lives of my children."

Normally, school year starts in Iraq in mid-September, but this year it was delayed for more than two weeks for the deterioration of the security, and because the school books came late. Minister of Education Sami Al Mudhafar announced a few days ago that the Iraqi government had prepared 65 million pencils, 30 million erasers, 30 million pencil sharpeners as well as 85 million books for students.

Source: Xinhua

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