Hamed, 13, walks up to the blackboard at a school in Fallujah. He lost his leg in a mortar attack in 2015. His father and cousin died in that attack. He returned to school in 2016.
BAGHDAD/ HONG KONG, 21 May, 2017 – The future of Iraq, its economic security and prosperity depends on increasing investment in education today.
And while the price of investing in Iraq’s education sector is high, failing to do so will cost the nation far more in the future.
“The Cost and Benefits of Education in Iraq” a UNICEF-supported report released today by the Ministry of Education estimates that Iraq lost almost HK$7.8 billion (US$1 billion) in unrealized wages from school dropouts from the 2014-2015 school year.
Lack of investment threatens the future of millions of Iraqi children. 3.5 million school-aged Iraqi children are missing out on education, which means they are at increased risk of early marriage, child labour and recruitment into armed groups.
Half of all school buildings in Iraq need urgent repairs. Children are dropping out of school while others are repeating grades.
“Children in Iraq are suffering from protracted periods of conflict. Without equitable access to quality education, children are at risk: we are talking about losing a generation of children.” said UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Geert Cappelaere.
“Investing in education is meeting a fundamental human right for every boy and girl, and is essential for a country’s development and is the best possible medicine against extremism.”
An accompanying UNICEF-supported report on “Child Poverty in Iraq” shows that one in five poor children who dropped out before completing primary school did so for economic reasons.
Ongoing conflict and displacement in Iraq has hit children the hardest. Poverty affects almost 40 per cent of displaced families. Nearly half of internally displaced children in Iraq are out of school. In areas heavily affected by violence, more than 90% of children are not in school.
“All of Iraq’s children should have the resources they need to fulfil their educational potential, whether that means new classrooms, accelerated learning programmes, motivated teachers or school materials,” said Cappelaere.
For 2017, UNICEF has appealed for HK$250 million (US$32 million) for its programmes to support education in Iraq and has received only half of its required funding.