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One fifth of Iraqis are illiterate: Iraqi official

Violence raises school dropout numbers

The Iraqi Ministry of Education issued a statement that almost one fifth of the population is illiterate and established a link between violence and the remarkable increase in dropout numbers.

Official figures of Iraqi illiteracy coincided with those issued by U.N. organizations and which estimated that one fifth of Iraqi adults, that is between the ages of 10 and 49, do not know how to read or write, the London-based newspaper al-Hayat reported Wednesday.

The waves of violence that swept the country since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion played a major role in increasing the illiteracy rate in Iraq, said Walid Hassan, Ministry of Education spokesman.

“The high level of illiteracy since the invasion is mainly because children drop out of schools in order to work and support their families after they lost everything in the war,” he said in the statement.

The war also made it difficult for the government to apply the obligatory education law and which penalizes families for not sending their children to school or for allowing them to drop out before completing their elementary years.

The political instability the country has been suffering from since 2003, the statement said, led to the absence of a comprehensive educational strategy and the lack of proper funding.

“There isn’t enough coordination between the relevant parties—the government, the private sector, and civil society.”

The statement added that besides the need for devising new strategies and developing school curricula, centers for educating adults have to be established in order to teach illiterate Iraqis who are past school age.

“We have already opened a couple of those in several governorates and prepared curricula that suit the age and skills of students, yet this needs an entire budget.”

The high level of illiteracy since the invasion is mainly because children drop out of schools in order to work and support their families after they lost everything in the war

Education Ministry spokesman Walid Hassan

Illiteracy rates

According to the ministry statement, the percentage of illiteracy among Iraqi women is 24%, which is more than double the percentage among women (11%). As for children of both sexes, around 19% between 10 and 14 years old don’t go to school.

Illiteracy rate differs according to regions as it reaches 25% in the countryside and does not exceed 14% in urban areas. The percentage differed according to governorates as it reached its lowest in Diyala, Baghdad, and Kirkuk and its highest in Duhok and Sulaymaniyah in the Iraqi Kurdistan autonomous region.

In the mid-1980s, Iraq was listed as an illiteracy-free country after the government launched an expansive campaign to eliminate illiteracy. The campaign involved enrolling illiterate Iraqi living in remote villages and towns in schools where they are obliged to study for six years.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).