Iraq: Union highlights that pandemic has deepened long-term deficiencies in education

published 20 January 2021 updated 3 March 2022

Education was already deteriorating in Kurdistan before the pandemic, according to the Kurdistan Teachers’ Union (KTU). It has called for increased investments in education.

The KTU made its call at a symposium on “Education in the era of the COVID -19 pandemic”. Held in Erbil, the symposium gathered education unionists, as well as educational and religious personalities, members of Parliament, and representatives of civil society organisations.

The KTU outlined the state of education in the region and highlighted the most important issues and obstacles resulting from the COVID-19 crisis.

Long-term deficiencies in the education sector

“In order to reduce the impact and negative effects of this pandemic, we presented the symposium’s participants with a number of ideas and underlined the fact that the education process in the Kurdistan region was already suffering from a number of deficiencies before the outbreak of the pandemic,” said KTU President Abdalwahed M. Haje.

These deficiencies include:

  • Non-compliance with international agreements to improve and develop the education sector
  • The failure, since 2014, to allocate an adequate budget to education
  • Two or three class shifts taking place in many education institutions
  • Excessive numbers of students and pupils in classrooms, not up to international standards – over 40 students and pupils in one class
  • Not enough training courses aimed at strengthening teachers’ experience and skills
  • A lack of appointed teachers in various subjects

KTU’s advocacy

Despite these shortcomings, KTU is constantly striving for the government to take steps to improve the sector. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation worse.

Haje regretted that students could only learn during 75 days for the 2019-2020 academic year. School attendance has not yet begun in the current academic year.

“It is true that remote education was conducted, but this teaching was not fruitful or advantageous as only a small number of students participated,” he said.

For Haje, the failure or distance teaching and learning was due to:

  • The lack of reliable and constant electrical power
  • The lack of good Internet connection        in the entire Kurdish territory
  • The lack of experience of teachers and students in using technologies allowing for remote education
  • Families’ poor financial means and their inability to provide decent tools and devices for distance learning

KTU’s demands

The educators’ union has urged the government to prioritise programmes providing financial resources for education, pay teachers’ monthly salaries on time, and require companies to provide up-to-date technical tools and devices to support the education process.

KTU is also leading a major campaign in the media and social media calling for education to be restored to its previous state.

Concerning reopening schools, the union believes the population must fully implement health protection measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.