Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

School Dropout Woes

School drop-out rates and levels of illiteracy are increasing.
Despite the general improvement in levels of education among the young, many girls are dropping out of school, for a variety of reasons. Among those interviewed about the phenomenon in Basra province, Majeda al-Tememi, a lawyer, says both economic and social factors are involved, while Farazdiq Saady Salim, who works at a university, insists local traditions are the major cause. Another lawyer, Kefaya Omer, says more girls drop out of school in rural areas because of the commonly held belief that women do not need an education because their only possible role is at home.

Statistics indicated that the illiteracy rate has risen among Iraqi women and is close to 50 per cent, especially in rural areas.

In a report by Aref Ali on the situation in Diyala province, Taghrid Ali, now 25, said she could not go to secondary school because she lived in a village and there was no school in the vicinity.

In the Kurdistan region in the north, which has enjoyed de facto autonomy since 1991, the authorities have conducted a literacy campaign. Shirin Kamal, a Kurdish women’s rights activist, says that despite this, there has been little progress in education. She believes the entire educational system is still too traditional, encouraging pupils to memorise large chunks of information without understanding or questioning it.

A new method, distance learning, is beginning to attract young people of both sexes. Young women have enrolled in these courses because of the instability and lack of security. Omer al-Mansuri reports from Baghdad that most distance-learning students are female. One of them, Nidhal Mahmood, 30, was unable to finish university because of the economic conditions in the Nineties, and has now signed up for a distance learning course based in the Netherlands. She has plenty of time to study, but says the fees are too high.