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UNICEF, European Union and Government of Iraq start €17M programme to improve primary education in Iraq


BAGHDAD, - The European Union is contributing 17 million euro to improve access to quality basic education in Iraq. The EU is partnering with UNICEF and the Government of Iraq to develop new education policies, build the capacity of the government, and mobilize communities to increase enrolment of girls and boys in schools and help them complete their education. This programme is in line with the ongoing work to support the Government of Iraq to develop the National Education Strategy and to meet its education targets.

“UNICEF is deeply grateful to the people of the European Union as this major programme will be instrumental in providing all Iraqi children in the years ahead with their fundamental right to a quality primary school education” said Sikander Khan, UNICEF’s Representative to Iraq. “By improving the overall quality of primary education as well as integrating hundreds of thousands of children and adolescents currently outside of the system back into it, millions of children in Iraq will benefit with the skills they need to escape poverty, become prosperous and act as a force for building a stable and peaceful Iraq in the future.”

“Having better access to quality education in Iraq is a fundamental element for having more job opportunities in a more diversified and competitive market economy” said Jobst von Kirchmann, Head of Development Cooperation, Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Iraq. “We, as the EU, believe that delivering quality education for all children is an investment in the future of Iraq and we’ll continue to help Iraq to build its future.”

Over the next three years, the programme will develop a new education policy that includes revised curricula for basic education as well as for the accelerated learning program for out-of-school adolescents. The programme will also help develop multi-year school investment plans, and ensure that schools are child-friendly with equal standards for girls and boys. The Ministry of Education’s capacity will also be strengthened to improve the planning, budgeting and monitoring of its education activities according to the most pressing needs in the country. Attention will also be given to train teachers to use child friendly teaching methodologies and to train school principals to use global best practices in managing schools. Social mobilization campaigns to increase school enrolment and completion, especially for girls, and to promote hygiene practices among students will be carried out in 1,200 communities benefitting over 600,000 of the most educationally disadvantaged children across Iraq.

Today, at around 87 per cent, the primary school enrolment rate is far below Iraq’s 2015 national Millennium Development Goal target of 98 per cent, a difference of around 700,000 new primary school-age children who never attend primary school every year. In addition, over 600,000 pupils are repeating their primary school grade of study the following year, including many who drop out of school altogether. Less than 50 per cent of all children who originally enroll in primary school go on to enroll in intermediate and secondary school during their adolescent years.

Variations in primary school enrolment, attendance and completion also exist across Iraq. While primary school enrolment is higher in both central and northern Iraq with more than 8 out of 10 children enrolled, it falls dramatically in southern Iraq with enrolment below 65 per cent in governorates such as Thi Qar, Babel and Basra. Girls are also enrolled less than boys in nearly all of Iraq’s 18 governorates, with only 82 per cent of girls nationally enrolled in primary school compared to 91 per cent for boys.

“Given higher levels of mothers’ education drastically improves the survival, education and protection of their children, providing the best quality education to girls today, the next generation of mothers, is urgently required. This programme will be a driving force to empower the next generation of Iraqi women,” Khan said.

This programme is part of UNICEF Iraq’s new 2011-2014 country programme that is supporting the Government of Iraq develop policies that ensure the full protection of children’s rights, support its nationwide delivery of essential services, and implement area-based programmes to reach the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children across the country. Contributing around €24M to UNICEF’s education and water and sanitation programmes, the EU is a principal partner in improving the access of Iraq’s 15 million children to quality water and sanitation and education services.

The programme is a component of the EU’s €42 million assistance package, approved in December 2009, to strengthen the capacity of Iraq’s institutions to improve the provision of quality basic services and to build the capacity of Iraq’s governance structure and rule of law system, which are fully in accordance with the priorities put forward by the Government of Iraq, as well as the global UNICEF/EU partnership to protect children’s rights around the world.

About UNICEF Iraq
UNICEF has been on the ground in Iraq since 1983 working to ensure Iraqi children survive and realize their full potential. UNICEF is supporting the Government of Iraq to develop child friendly policies, build the capacity of institutions that deliver essential services to children, and convene all duty bearers to realize the full rights of Iraqi children. Via a network of staff and partners, UNICEF’s programmes continue to improve basic health services, safeguard a quality education, rebuild water and sanitation systems, protect children from abuse, violence, and exploitation, and meet the needs of the most vulnerable in crisis situations.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:

About EU in Iraq
Helping Iraqi national efforts in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which have a strong two-way link to the peace consolidation process is fundamental for the EU. The EU’s objective for cooperation with Iraq has been to help Iraq mobilise its own resources for recovery and development, with the support of the international community. EU support to Iraq from 2003 to the end of 2010 amounts to over 1 billion Euro targeting mainly the following sectors: basic services such as education, health, water and sanitation, infrastructure; political and electoral process; support to refugees and IDPs; rule of law; human rights; and capacity building of Iraqi institutions. Education has been a focus priority in the EU’s support to Iraq with over €180 million to date providing more schools, more teachers, better teaching and learning materials, improved health and nutrition of students and an improved curriculum.


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