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Iraqi Official Seeks More Resources To Battle Illiteracy

Iraqi girls attend an English class. The high rate of school drop-outs has worsened Iraq's illiteracy problem.
BAGHDAD -- A senior Iraqi education official says the country needs to devote greater resources to teach millions of illiterate Iraqis how to read, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Deputy Education Minister Nahad Abbas told RFI today that no precise statistics on illiteracy in Iraq are available, but UNESCO's Baghdad office estimates that some 6 million of the country's 31 million people are illiterate.

Abbas added that illiteracy is especially widespread among young people. "Considering that an average of 250,000 children drop out of school every year, the figure cited by UNESCO is quite plausible," he said.

Abbas said the Education Ministry currently runs about 1,000 literacy centers across the country. But he underlined that with each center offering classes to a maximum of 50 people, the centers don't come close to dealing with the magnitude of the illiteracy problem.

Abbas said his ministry had hoped the outgoing parliament would pass a law on compulsory literacy, but the bill was shelved due to a lack of financial resources needed to implement it.

Hashim Hassan, a lecturer at the college of media studies in Baghdad, told RFI that the illiteracy problem in Iraq cannot be resolved only with legislation. He said a strong political will and the capacity to follow through on any programs that are established are also necessary.

Hassan added that some young people think it is meaningless to pursue an education when illiterate or poorly educated people are able to become wealthy through bribes and other corrupt practices at all levels of government.