Schoolchildren in north Iraq returned to class on Monday for the first time since U.S.-led forces attacked Iraq last month, in a sign stability may be returning there, the U.N. children's relief agency UNICEF said.
Several hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Kurds fled their homes ahead of the war, making it impossible for schools to operate. Kurds have run their own region of northern Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War.
Children of all ages began attending classes again in cities and rural communities after the Kurdish education ministry decided to re-open schools. UNICEF says there are about 4,000 primary schools and hundreds of secondary schools in the region.
"It is a sign life is returning to normal when families send their kids back to school," UNICEF spokesman Michael Bociurkiw said by telephone from a Turkish town at the Iraqi border.
"The return went quite smoothly."
He said UNICEF officials in the north reported on Monday that all displaced people had returned home.
U.S. forces operating in the north took over schools near the city of Arbil during the conflict, and UNICEF was now seeking their departure.
"Coalition forces installed themselves into some schools... They remain in two schools in Arbil, and we are talking to them about moving elsewhere as soon as possible," Bociurkiw said.
UNICEF has trucked in educational materials and tents to the north in recent weeks, along with medical supplies, sanitation equipment and other humanitarian assistance.
Aid workers were also counselling children, many of whom are suffering from nightmares and other signs of trauma after bombing in the north during the conflict, Bociurkiw said. [Source: Yahoo News]
Posted on 2003-04-30