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Post-Election Repairs for Schools

Pupils get extra holiday time as schools used as polling stations undergo repairs following shell damage.
By Aqil Jabbar

Schools used as polling stations across Iraq stations are now being repaired, after insurgents damaged the buildings in attempts to derail the January 30 election.


Most of the over 5,000 polling stations were set up in schools.


In Baaqubah, a mostly Sunni city just north of Baghdad, nine schools were attacked, mostly receiving hits from mortar fire. It will cost more than 85,000 US dollars to repair them.


Speaking on February 3, Sala Hamid, headmaster of the al-Jahra secondary school in Baaqubah, said money has been found to reconstruct the damaged schools.


Iraqi pupils are currently on the traditional two-week holiday they get half way through the academic year. They are supposed to return on February 7, but because of the repair work, the schools in Baaqubah will reopen three days later.


The students here say they are happy to get some extra holiday time.


“I’m glad they hit our school because I don’t want to have to wake up early,” said Laith Mushtaq, 10, who goes to the Ibn Sina primary school in Baaqubah.


Murtadha Wassif, 14, who attends the al-Farahidi school, said he hopes “all the schools will be destroyed, so we don’t have to go to classes”.


In Babil governorate, just south of Baghdad, six schools used as voting centres now need renovation after explosions caused by suicide bombers destroyed fences, broke windows and damaged doors.


Hammadi Muhammed al-Awadi, 60, general manager of Babil’s provincial education department, said pupils would be redirected from the damaged sites to other schools until the work is done.


“It’s going to be hard to teach, but we have to bear it, for the sake of Iraq and for our students,” said Ban Kadhim, a teacher in the Kawther school in the province.


"What do the terrorists want from us?” asked Zainab Abbas Hussein, a 17-year-old student at a school in Iskandariyah. “They want to destroy Iraq but we won’t give them that chance. We will complete the school year anywhere we can, even if it’s in the yard of another school."


Parent Muhammed al-Khafaji says his sons must continue their studies, even if they have to do so in their damaged school building.


“Our enemies want Iraq to remain deprived of knowledge,” he said. “But we will fight them by means of our efforts, and by educating our sons and daughters."


Aqil Jabbar and Yaseen Madhloom are IWPR trainee journalists in Iraq.


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