Basra, April 19 (AFP): Teachers and pupils ripped down portraits of Saddam Hussein and swept their classrooms free of debris today as Basra’s schools reopened for the first time since the start of the war in Iraq.
Only around 100 of the 840 boys who usually attend the al-Marekarzia secondary school were able to make it to class but teachers and students alike said they were delighted to be back. Headteacher Ahmed Sabir looked on with pride as a group of boys swept broken glass from one of the classrooms which was targeted by looters in the immediate aftermath of the city’s fall to Vritish forces earlier this month.
“This shows how eager they are to return to school,” Sabir said. The headmaster said that messages had been broadcast on radio and from loudspeakers yesterday, telling pupils and parents that schools were reopening. He said none of the teachers knew how they were going to be paid but around 30 of the 40-strong staff had turned up for work.
“We are hoping that normal life can return in Iraq. Salaries and other things are of secondary importance.” Looters stole or wrecked much of the school’s science laboratories, but classes in subjects such as English, Arabic and Mathematics were able to take place today without any problems.