Saturday, April 09, 2005

"Guardian" asks a difficult question 

Don't miss this "Guardian" interview with Mahdy Ali Lafta:
"Mahdy Ali Lafta is an Iraqi teacher. But in 1979, 10 years into his career in Baghdad schools, Saddam Hussein came to power and Mr Lafta, because he wouldn't support the dictator, was forced out of his job. He spent the Saddam years teaching friends, family and neighbours, and doing a little private tuition. Mostly, he found other ways to make money, like driving a taxi in the city...

"Mr Lafta, 57, is married, has a 15-year-old son, and lives in Baghdad, where, following the fall of Saddam, he now does something once unthinkable. He is head of the Iraqi Teachers' Union (ITC), set up for all of Baghdad's teachers east of the river Tigris."
Read about what happened to Iraqi education under Saddam ("How would he describe the state of Iraqi education when Saddam fell? 'In one word? Disastrous,' he says."), how Lafta and thousands of his colleagues were reinstated in their old jobs following the liberation, how they are rebuilding the education system ("The students are happier now. They go to school and get involved more. And parents do too. They come to school meetings, the students and parents and teachers all talk to one another. This never happened before. We live in a more open, democratic and free society - relatively speaking - and people sense this."), and about the price the teaches are paying in Iraq today ("Among the 125 Iraqis who died in a suicide bombing in Hilla in February, around 50 were newly qualified teachers who were queuing to register their health certificates so they could begin work.").

And at the end of all this:
"Which brings us to a difficult question. Is Iraq better now than under Saddam?"
Lafta's reply:
Now, it wasn't all that difficult, was it?


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