The drive, organized by the Iraqi Education Ministry and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) with support from the European Commission, aims to reach all Iraqi primary schools, bringing basic learning tools to millions of children aged 6 to 11. “Iraq’s parents and teachers have shown unshaken determination to educate their children through years of deprivation, but the current terrible insecurity is testing many to the limit,” UNICEF Representative for Iraq Roger Wright said, calling on the international community to provide more support to protect the war-torn country’s education system during the current emergency. “Iraq’s education system needs a great deal more investment and attention to survive this time of crisis.” The system is now dangerously vulnerable, with many schools not operating normally. Violence is compounding the corrosive effects of years of under-investment throughout the 1990s, depleting teaching staff and eroding school infrastructure. The current insecurity is making the choice for families to send their children to school a life-threatening one in some areas. Over 800,000 children may now be out of school according to a recent estimate by Save the Children UK, up from 600,000 in 2004. These children are likely to miss out on their right to education altogether unless they receive urgent support and protection. Mr. Wright acknowledged the great commitment by the Government to prioritize education even under the most difficult circumstances. In the last two years alone more than 159 damaged school buildings and 800 school water and sanitation facilities have been restored, 30,000 teachers retrained and basic school materials delivered directly to Iraq’s children with the support of UNICEF and partners including the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the European Commission. “Schools are a symbol of hope to Iraq’s families,” Mr. Wright said. “We must do everything in our power to keep Iraq’s classroom doors open, welcoming and safe for children.” Materials will be distributed both centrally from Baghdad and directly to local governorates, reaching even the most remote schools. Supplies will arrive in classrooms in advance of the second half of the school year. 15 February 2007Millions of school bags, books, pencils and other essential learning materials are now being delivered to Iraq’s primary schoolchildren thanks to a United Nations-backed national school supply drive.