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UNESCO Director Concerned About New School Year In Iraq

Thousands of displaced Iraqi children will be unable to enroll in school this year, as their schools are used as shelters and military sites.
Khalid Mohammed
Thousands of displaced Iraqi children will be unable to enroll in school this year, as their schools are used as shelters and military sites.

The head of UNESCO says thousands of Iraqi children and adolescents may be deprived of their right to an education this year as many of them are displaced or moved to host families to escape the rising violence in the country.

"It is time to stand up and act now," Irina Bokova, director-general of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said in a statement Wednesday. "Education cannot wait."

She added that:

"Education must be amongst the priorities. We must think of the future of the young generation in Iraq. Education has the power to protect, to heal and to give hope. It enables young people to shape their future and to cope with adversity. It lays the foundation for lasting stability. For all these reasons, I call on the international community to mobilize and invest in the education of the Iraqi people."

Although schools in Iraq are scheduled to open as usual in September, many students won't be able to enroll. More than 1,000 schools in Iraq are being used as shelters for displaced families and many others are being used for military purposes, according to UNESCO. Even the temporary learning spaces that have been made available, the organization says, aren't enough to accommodate the student population.

Paris-based UNESCO says on its website that 50 percent of Iraq's population is under the age of 20, meaning the education crisis will affect more than 550,000 school-age children.

The military threat in Iraq already prevented many students from taking exams in June.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lauren Hodges is an associate producer for All Things Considered. She joined the show in 2018 after seven years in the NPR newsroom as a producer and editor. She doesn't mind that you used her pens, she just likes them a certain way and asks that you put them back the way you found them, thanks. Despite years working on interviews with notable politicians, public figures, and celebrities for NPR, Hodges completely lost her cool when she heard RuPaul's voice and was told to sit quietly in a corner during the rest of the interview. She promises to do better next time.

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