Iraq has given permission for the first new Christian school to open in the country since 1974, when education was nationalised, reports Asia News.
The Catholic primary school will open in September 2018 in Basra, near the country’s Gulf coast.
Chaldean Archbishop of Basra, Alhava Habib Jajou, said he hopes the school will strengthen human values and morals “through the education of new generations”, in particular “in an area like ours where there is a high percentage of poverty and illiteracy”.
Education standards have been in decline since the first Gulf War. Prior to 1991 Iraq’s education system was “considered to be one of the most advanced in the region”, according to UNESCO. But education has suffered under subsequent invasions, internal conflict and sanctions.
As a result of the “critical” situation that emerged after the US invasion in 2003, one of the many challenges has been the “violations of the dignity of children”, the Archbishop said.
“In the last few years [Christians] have abandoned the south in huge numbers… That is why we have decided to invest all our efforts in helping the [Christian] community.” Only 10 per cent of the area’s original Christian population remains, according to recent estimates.
But, the Archbishop added, the school will be open to all faiths to “improve relations with Muslim families”. Teaching staff will be both Muslim and Christian.