Skip to comments.Heads Roll In School De-Ba'athification (Iraq)
Posted on 05/27/2003 4:53:56 PM PDT by blam
Heads roll in school de-Ba'athification
Education is going back to basics after years of Saddam's propaganda, reports Kate Connolly
The abrupt dismissal of her headmistress two weeks ago still causes 13-year old Duha Hassan to weep.
The much-loved 42-year-old - like the majority of Iraq's head teachers - was a high-ranking member of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party, so after his fall, the local caretaker council stripped her of her post.
Looted: Mohammed Jassim inspects the wrecked laboratory at the El Ma'kal school "We appreciated her very much, and she was a good teacher," said Duha. "Her departure has left a huge gap in our lives."
The education system is in tatters after the dismissal of large numbers of teachers affiliated to the Ba'ath Party.
In addition, significant sections of the curriculum through which Saddam used to indoctrinate his people have had to be scrapped from the timetable.
The "general culture" subject which celebrated the Ba'ath Party for its "goals of unity, freedom and socialism", and for "serving the needs of the people" was the first to go. "Nationality" followed, along with textbooks that hailed Saddam as "one of the great Arab leaders", a "symbol of the future" and "liberator of women".
Since the dictator's fall, the history and geography syllabuses have been pared down to their barest bones. For years they were used to convey warped versions of what happened in the Iran-Iraq war or to praise Saddam for his numerous environmentally damaging river-dam projects.
Even the English course quotes from several of the "47 Wisdoms of Saddam Hussein" and a copy of The Merchant of Venice contains the standard portrait of him.
Most agree that it will take years to complete the "de-Ba'athification" of the school system.
"We have forbidden all teachers from teaching anything about Saddam Hussein, and have ordered that the children tear his image from their books as they start returning to school, although most children did that of their own accord," said Sheikh Ahmed El Malaky, Basra's interim education minister. "But this is just the start of a lengthy cleansing process."
Once the war was over, staff wasted no time in holding ballots for the re-election of new head teachers. According to Sheikh Ahmed there was never a question as to who those affiliated to the party were. "The Ba'ath Party was in place for 35 years which is long enough for people to be able to differentiate between the good and the bad ones."
Where there was doubt, his staff turned to salary records. The average teacher's monthly pay was 10,000 dinar (about £5) but party members received bonuses of up to 250,000 dinar.
The process of removing the Ba'ath Party influence has been hardest among primary and pre-school children. Not long ago they were encouraged to chant nursery rhymes praising Saddam. Now they are often slapped for doing so.
Confusion is rife. "We are in complete limbo," said Duha's newly elected headmistress, Ashwaq Abdul Allah, 38.
"At night I cry with worry for my girls and the closer the date gets to exams without any government or education minister in Baghdad to make the decision, the more I fear that we will have to pretend this school year never happened," she said.
"An entire nation is in danger of being held back, particularly when getting the schools up and running is vital to getting the country back on its feet," said Geoff Keele, a communications officer for Unicef in Basra.
"The whole process has to come first and foremost from the Iraqis themselves and will form an important part of rebuilding civil and political life."
But before any such process can begin in earnest, schools across the country are in need of repair and of re-equipment with items as basic as chairs and blackboards, following their widespread looting over the past month.
Girls' schools report that only about five per cent of pupils are returning, due to security fears. At boys' schools the figure is much higher at over 50 per cent.
At the El Ma'kal preparatory school for boys, the pupils started their first lesson since the war with the chemistry teacher, Mohammed Jassim, by sweeping up the glass left by looters who broke in and ransacked a once well-stocked laboratory.
"We must first sort out this mess," said Mr Jassim. "Then we can deal with the mess that the Ba'ath Party has left us with."
We ought to send our unionised teachers over there and finish it off once and for all.:-P
< /fantasy >
FReegards .. SFS
Based on what the article said was being taught, I hardly see the difference between that and just letting the kids go home to do chores.