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Iraq's Basra Province Struggles To Meet Demand For Schools

Basra has just 900 school buildings for around 700,000 pupils.

Basra has just 900 school buildings for around 700,000 pupils.

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi officials say the country's southeastern province of Basra currently has a shortage of some 700 schools, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Provincial Education Committee head Salman Dawood told RFI that, as a result, some schoolhouses are used by two or even three schools with students learning in shifts.

There are just 900 school buildings in the province that are shared by some 1,430 schools and about 700,000 pupils.

Dawood said the shortage of schoolhouses is one of the main reasons why some children do not attend school.

Dawood added that the school shortage is more acute in the central part of the province.
He said the committee hopes to soon end the practice of one building being used by three schools.

Dawood said the government has allocated 450 billion dinars ($381 million) to build new schools to replace older ones made of mud bricks, but there are problems in allocating land for the new buildings.

"According to the short-term plan for 2011, we are going to build 120 new schools," Dawood said. He admitted that this is not enough but "better than nothing."
An Iraqi primary school under construction. The government plans to build 120 new schools in Basra Province in 2011.

Dawood said the long-term plan, if implemented correctly, would result in schools being built "in every corner of the province."

Education Committee deputy head Ganim Abdul Amir al-Maliki said the education system in Basra would face disaster if the school-building plans are not implemented. He said the population growth rate makes it necessary to build at least 10 new schools in the province every year.

Basra Province has an estimated population of nearly 2 millon people.

But the disaster al-Maliki talked about not only concerned the level of education.

Al-Maliki said the need for new schools in the province is, in many cases, quite urgent.

"We may face another kind of disaster," he said. "Some of the old buildings are crumbling and collapsing. It happened this last weekend. We are lucky there was no one in the school otherwise it would have been a real disaster."

Read more in Arabic here