Fourth Installment of "Where Things Stand" in Iraq

Final note: There has been progress in southernmost Iraq, with the restoration of approximately 40 percent of Iraq's fabled marshlands. The marshlands were drained by Saddam Hussein's regime to punish those who supported the 1991 Shiite rebellion. There had been approximately 3,600 square miles of marshes here; by 2002 only 304 square miles remained. Today, there are 1,400 square miles of marshland. As a result of the restoration and newly installed water treatment and sanitation equipment, nearly 20,000 Iraqi "Marsh Arabs" now have access to clean water.

Facts & Figures:

Percentage of Sewage Treated

August 2003: 25 percent

August 2004: 35 percent

August 2005: 50 percent

Source: Brookings Institution, Iraq Index.

Percentage of Homes Connected to Sewer System

Overall: 37 percent

Baghdad: 80 percent

(<10 percent outside of Baghdad)

Source: Brookings Institution, Iraq Index.


North: Better

Central: Better

South: Better

This remains an almost unqualified success story. In all three parts of the country, large majorities of Iraqis told us they believed education had improved -- both in terms of the schools themselves and the quality of teaching.

Today 74 percent of Iraqis say that schools have improved since Saddam Hussein's time; this appears in part a reflection of their happiness that Saddam himself no longer dominates the texts. But teachers are also better paid, and many schools have been spruced up with the help of reconstruction funds.

A visit to a Diwaniyah school was typical: our reporters found praise for teachers and the supply of books, but also criticism because computers and other technical upgrades had been promised and as yet not materialized. The headmaster, Muthanna Abu Teeba, told us salaries had been raised across the board, and that faculty morale had risen -- then complained about mold in classrooms and the absence of computers.

Two problems persist, particularly in central Iraq. First, the deteriorating security situation has driven some parents to keep their children, particularly young girls, at home for fear of attack. Second, thousands of skilled teachers and university professors fled the country during Saddam's regime, and shortly after the U.S.-led invasion, also due to security concerns. As previously noted, significant efforts have been made by the Iraqi government to combat this exodus and lure qualified teachers back to their classrooms. The government has offered as much as $700 monthly to teachers who last earned roughly $50 a month.

USAID has had a significant impact in this area, having helped print and distribute more than 8 million math and science textbooks to Iraqi schoolchildren since 2003, while training nearly 52,000 secondary school teachers and administrators. USAID has also been at the forefront of distributing hundreds of thousands of desks, cabinets, chalkboards and more than 3 million school kits to Iraqi schools across the country. (It is sad but worth noting how little credit the U.S. receives for these efforts. It may be, as ABC producer Bruno Roeber suggests, that Iraqis are often afraid to give public credit to the Americans.)

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