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Laboratory equipment and text books headed to Iraq in UN-sponsored project

Laboratory equipment and text books headed to Iraq in UN-sponsored project

Four containers of laboratory equipment, along with supplies of up-to-date reference and textbooks, are on their way to Iraq as part of an international effort to revitalize the country’s universities and its higher education system under a nearly $6 million programme jointly sponsored by the United Nations.

The consignment, due to arrive in Baghdad before the end of the month, consists of $4.6 million of equipment and materials for medical and related disciplines as well as for engineering and $1 million in textbooks. It was organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Fund for Higher Education in Iraq initiated by Qatari First Lady Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Misnad.

“Iraq’s universities and technical institutes are in a dramatic situation,” UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said. “Some 24 years of conflict and unrest - first with Iran in the 1980s and then with the Gulf wars and the situation that has followed - have seen tens of thousands of young Iraqis killed, the exodus of many intellectuals and the virtual isolation of those who remained.

“The institutions themselves have suffered severely from war damage and neglect and are a pale image of what they used to be,” he added.

Despite the difficulties, nearly 240,000 students, or 83 per cent of the entire Iraqi student body, returned to their college campuses to attend classes in 2003, reflecting the tradition of pursuing higher education in Iraq, which once boasted the best universities and technical institutes in the Arab region.